How Different Cultures Define Choice

In her book The Art of Choos­ing, psy­cho­lo­gist Sheena Iyengar—the exper­i­menter who con­duc­ted the ori­gin­al stud­ies lead­ing to the para­dox of choice the­ory—looks at the cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences in the defin­i­tion and accept­ance of choice.

Take a mundane ques­tion: Do you choose to brush your teeth in the morn­ing? Or do you just do it? Can a habit or cus­tom be a choice? When Iyengar asked Japan­ese and Amer­ic­an col­lege stu­dents in Kyoto to record all the choices they made in a day, the Amer­ic­ans included things like brush­ing their teeth and hit­ting the snooze but­ton. The Japan­ese did­n’t con­sider those actions to be choices. The two groups lived sim­il­ar lives. But they defined them dif­fer­ently.

In a review of the book, Iyengar is quoted as say­ing “the optim­al amount of choice lies some­where in between infin­ity and very little, and that optim­um depends on con­text and cul­ture”. I’ve pos­ted before on how we may be over­es­tim­at­ing the para­dox of choice the­ory.

via Mind Hacks