The Art of Choosing Part 2

Go to The Art of Choosing Part 1

We're going to discuss the second and third points Sheena Iyengar made in her talk:
The more choices you have, the more likely you are to make the best choice. You will surely find the perfect match.
Coke Diet Coke Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sprite, Apple Sidra, Dr. Pepper.
How many choices are here?
Which would you choose?

Coke Diet Coke Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sprite, Apple Sidra, Dr. Pepper, Juice, Tea, Coffee."
How many choices are here?
Which would you choose?
Does your choice of product define you as a person?

Do Taiwanese think of brands as defining them as a person?
Americans are exposed to more choice of products and more ads about these choices than anyone else in the world. The choice is just as much about who you are as what the product is. Combine this with the assumption that more choices are always better, and you have a group of people for whom every little difference matters and so every choice matters. I don't need twenty kinds of chewing gum. I don't mean to say that I want no choice, but many of these choices are quite artificial. 
Agree or disagree?
In fact, though all humans share a basic need and desire for choice, we don't all see choice in the same places or to the same extent. When someone can't see how one choice is unlike another, or when there are too many choices to compare and contrast, the process of choosing can be confusing and frustrating. A number of my studies have shown that when you give people 10 or more options when they're making a choice, they make poorer decisions, whether it be health care, investment, other critical areas. Yet still, many of us believe that we should make all our own choices and seek out even more of them.   
You must never say no to choice.
In a study I conducted with Simona Botti and Kristina Orfali, American and French parents were interviewed. They had all suffered the same tragedy. In all cases, the life support was removed, and the infants had died. But there was a big difference. In France, the doctors decided whether and when the life support would be removed, while in the United States, the final decision rested with the parents.

We wondered: does this have an effect on how the parents cope with the loss of their loved one? We found that it did. Even up to a year later, American parents were more likely to express negative emotions, as compared to their French counterparts. But when the American parents were asked if they would rather have had the doctors make the decision, they all said, "No." They could not imagine turning that choice over to another, even though having made that choice made them feel trapped, guilty, angry.

 The story Americans tell, the story upon which the American dream depends, is the story of limitless choice. This narrative promises so much: freedom, happiness, success. It lays the world at your feet and says, "You can have anything, everything." It's a great story, and it's understandable why they would be reluctant to revise it. But when you take a close look, you start to see the holes, and you start to see that the story can be told in many other ways.

An Extra Story
And so one time I was in a beauty salon, and I was trying to decide between two very light shades of pink. One was called "Ballet Slippers." And the other one was called "Adorable."

And so I asked these two ladies, and the one lady told me, "Well, you should definitely wear 'Ballet Slippers.'"
"Well, what does it look like?"
"Well, it's a very elegant shade of pink."
"Okay, great." The other lady tells me to wear "Adorable."
"What does it look like?"
"It's a glamorous shade of pink."
And so I asked them, "Well, how do I tell them apart? What's different about them?"
And they said, "Well, one is elegant, the other one's glamorous."
And what I wondered was whether they were being affected by the name or the content of the color, so I decided to do a little experiment. So I brought these two bottles of nail polish into the laboratory, and I stripped the labels off. And I brought women into the laboratory, and I asked them, "Which one would you pick?" 50 percent of the women accused me of playing a trick, of putting the same color nail polish in both those bottles. At which point you start to wonder who the trick's really played on. Now, of the women that could tell them apart, when the labels were off, they picked "Adorable," and when the labels were on, they picked "Ballet Slippers." So as far as I can tell, a rose by any other name probably does look different and maybe even smells different.