Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A.O.C.: Choice & the Influence of Cultural Background

Haley Scholar Reading Groups

Sheena Iyengar's travels to multiple countries and her interactions with hundreds of people, not to mention her attention to studies involving thousands of participants, have given her tremendous insight concerning the cultural factors that influence choices.

Iyengar notes that "members of individualist societies are taught the special importance of choice" while on the other hand, "members of collectivist societies place greater emphasis on duty" (45). Iyengar strives, by the way, to move beyond the typical task of suggesting that one society's approach is superior to another; instead, she highlights and celebrates the differences.

We're still doing exploratory work on this book, so let us hear from you. What aspects of choice, in relation to the influence of cultural background, seemed most essential to you and why concerning chapter 2 (pages 22 - 73) of Iyengar's book?

17 comments:

Alexia said...

Well, as if Lyengar did not stress enough how wonderful and important the differences between collectivist and individualist societies are in the tedious and highly repetitive 51 pages of chapter 2, it actually does not matter. Of course I would answer typical pro-individualist ideals such as "who I marry" and "what occupation I can attain", but that is because I was reared in a capitalist economy. Why is that essential to me? Because that is precisely what was drilled into my head since the day I was born, from every Disney movie and "rags to riches" story ever presented to me. I really hope that the remainder of this book is more enticing than the swampy, rewritten dissertation that is chapter 2.

Rohan Genge said...

Here in one of the most individualist cultures it seems like we have many choices but most are not particularly significant. For example we have thousands of choices when we go out to purchase a product but choosing one over the other does not have much of an impact on ones life. For the remainder of this book I am interested to learn more about the choices we lack in individualist cultures and how they affect us.

She touched on this issue when she disscused how ones economic/social background are good predictor of ones future economic or social status in this country. When we have so much freedom to choose why is there still so little social mobility? Are the choices we are free to make really the ones that are important?

Also in collective culture the influence society has on the decisions you make is very direct. In individualist culture the individual is suppose to be free to make those decision themselves. For individualist choosing is important, it motivates us, makes us happy and we protect it as a right for these reasons. This may be true but it does not necessarily preclude societies influence in your decision making process. For example advertising pushes us to choose one product over another or the social/economic prestige we as a society give business men over social workers pushes many to become business men. I wonder to what extent the larger social units we are apart of in individualist nations affects the decision we make because in my mind this influence still exists just in a less direct fashion.

Rohan Genge said...

Here in one of the most individualist cultures it seems like we have many choices but most are not particularly significant. For example we have thousands of choices when we go out to purchase a product but choosing one over the other does not have much of an impact on ones life. For the remainder of this book I am interested to learn more about the choices we lack in individualist cultures and how they affect us.

She touched on this issue when she disscused how ones economic/social background are good predictor of ones future economic or social status in this country. When we have so much freedom to choose why is there still so little social mobility? Are the choices we are free to make really the ones that are important?

Also in collective culture the influence society has on the decisions you make is very direct. In individualist culture the individual is suppose to be free to make those decision themselves. For individualist choosing is important, it motivates us, makes us happy and we protect it as a right for these reasons. This may be true but it does not necessarily preclude societies influence in your decision making process. For example advertising pushes us to choose one product over another or the social/economic prestige we as a society give business men over social workers pushes many to become business men. I wonder to what extent the larger social units we are apart of in individualist nations affects the decision we make because in my mind this influence still exists just in a less direct fashion.

Jasmine said...

I think the aspects of choice that are most essential to me are being able to choose who I marry and being able to choose my religion. I must say, though, that as an American choice in general is essential to me. Americans are taught that being able to choose goes hand and hand with freedom. This country is referred to as the land of the free so anyone who grows up in this culture or one similar to it are going to have an issue with not being able to make their decisions. They would probably feel like a piece of their freedom was being taken away if someone else was making choices for them.

Ralicia G.H said...

The thing that stood out the most to me was that although the author celebrated various choices an individual can make, I was profoundly effected at WHY people choose the way they do. Some people choose simple because they can, and have been encouraged to do so on a regular basis. Others however choose because it will benefit the people around them. The key difference here lies not in what is chosen, but rather why it is chosen. Both groups of people, people in individualistic cultures and collective cultures choose the way they do because they feel their choices will ultimately end up better for them in the end. If someone makes a decision based solely upon themselves, it will benefit them. However, collective cultured individuals make their choices for the same reason. They feel that by bettering the community in which they live, they will better themselves as well.
I am interested to learn how collective and individualistic cultures blend and learn from one another.

Jennifer Johnson said...

In this individualistic culture we tend to focus more on ourselves and our own success, while in collectivist cultures, they put more emphasis on what they can do for their families to become successful. so basically, in a collectivist culture, you would care more about whats best for those around you while we as an individualistic society do things to our own liking.

Sherrie Jayne said...

Lyengar's point of view of being an Indian American brings an interesting perspective of the "best of both worlds". She seems to present an unbiased approach to the concept of choosing and goes into pros and cons about individualistic and collectivist societies. I thought her story of her parent's arrange marriage and the statistics of divorce and unhappy marriages was extremely interesting. It is unfathomable to think of marriage without love in our society, but it seems to have better results and has worked for years for the Indian people. I also thought the survey of asian americans and how much freedom they preferred was interesting as well. Overall, the book is very informative we all can learn from the other at the end of the day.

William Roa-Schmitt said...

In relation to the influence of culture, I believe FREEDOM is definitely one of the most essential aspects of choice mentioned in chapter 2. The author does a good job of explaining how freedom can vary from different cultures when he breaks freedom into the two different views of "freedom from" and "freedom to."

To further explain these two phrases, "freedom from" is directly related to a culture that practices a capitalist system, such as the United States. For example, in the United States we emphasize on the "freedom from" other outside forces effecting one's ability to rise in society on their own. Or the "American Dream," if you will. In contrast, "freedom to" is directly tied to communist/socialist systems in a sense that they focus on guaranteeing the equal right to freedom even if it interferes with certain members not being able to prosper over others.

Bradley Goolsby said...

The author, despite being repetitive throughout the chapter, did a fairly decent job when discussing the aspects of choice in regards to marriage and religion. Based on the culture of the society I grew up in, freedom of choice to choose who you marry and what religion you follow is important. Our society is built around freedom of choice, ranging from what you eat for breakfast to who you vote for during elections. It is because of this that choice has become ingrained in nearly every citizen of the society, which is why it feels so important for us to maintain control over what we want and how we choose to proceed with our lives. I look forward to seeing how the author continues to discuss the 'art' of choice, and will hopefully have a higher understanding of other cultures by the time the book is finished.

Natalia Habibi said...

In my household, the "members of collectivist societies place greater emphasis on duty" relates the most. I was able to understand that lifestyle more readily than the individualist societies. My sisters and I were taught that we have certain freedoms to do things as long as it was for the good of our family as a whole rather than for ourselves individually. I really enjoyed how lyengar celebrated the differences between the two because it made it easy to accept both lifestyles rather than judge the one I am not familiar with. I would have liked it a little better if she wasnt so repetitive but i think that she really just wanted to make sure her audience understood her point.
These aspects of choice are very important to me because everyday we make choices, even very little seemingly insignificant choices make a huge impact on our lives and how we live them.

Jim Engracia said...

I thought it was interesting that she did not choose a particular side of whether the individualist or collectivist is better.
I believe that the most influential and essential aspect of choice in regards to cultural background is socioeconomic background. Unfortunately, it is the cause of many factors of choices because it is whether you can pay for something or not. With more money, you have more options of choice rather than having less money. For example, many people go to college or what college based on what they can afford.

In regards to individualist and collectivist societies, I would like to see if there is a blend or mixture of either and how it survives on its own. It is typically shown that the western countries are known to be individualist societies, while the eastern countries tend to lean more towards collectivist societies. What about countries that border or are in the middle of the two societies? Do they have a mixture between collectivism and/or individualism?

Jessica Hickman said...

The author Lyengar use statistics to clearly state her points of view. Sometimes these points seem repetitive but I understand her method.

The idea of being individualistic closely relates to my cultural background and this country as a whole. Everything around me since birth has given me the illusion for having a choice. I like that I have the freedom to choose certain aspects of my life, such as "Who I will marry and what religion I can take part in"? But I also agree with the concept of collectivism. Some choices that you make need to be made with thinking about others. Some decisions can affect others in more ways than we think. I am very interested in reading the rest of this book and understanding the logic of Lyengar.

Nayab Bashir said...

Coming from a Muslim, Pakistani-American household, I enjoyed, and understood, Lyengar's interpretation of the difference between two cultures that could not be more different. Asia's collective society, and America's individualist society, both do a good job of justifying their ways of life, and Lyengar talks about the good and bad consequences of both. Having grown up in a household that incorporated "the best of both worlds" I've seen these consequences myself, and have managed to choose which parts of both cultures were right for me. As far as I am concerned, this the most essential part of following anything, to not follow blindly. Instead picking up good, from different views, rather than good and bad, from one view.

Julian Glover said...

I find it extremely interesting how the experiences in this book highlight almost exactly what I am studying in a class that I am currently taking called Intercultural Communication. The distinction between Collectivist and Individualist societies shape how we think as a member of the respective society. Growing up in an individualist society, it is very hard to understand the concept of giving up a portion of ones life because his or her "duty" leads them to do so.
One thing that I would like to highlight is the difference in individualist and collectivist societies of the concept and importance of self reliance. In an individualistic society, self reliance has an extremely important place as it is the basis for our capitalist society, the notion of the "Protestant Work Ethic", and being able to "pull ourselves up by our boot straps." The three aforementioned concepts tie into our economic standing as well as our social standing in the US.
This concept is virtually unheard of in a collectivist society as they believe in the strength and power of a group, sense of community, and helping each other out. This is in effect the opposite doctrine to that of self reliance.
Until i understood that concept, i could not understand why "duty" was so important to members of a collectivist society.

Kizzy said...

I enjoyed the first two chapters. In response to the question, I don't favor one culture over the other. Moreover, Culture is very overt in shaping people and their social relations. Therefore, I think its about a person's perception (being able to understand and make sense of your invironment. From a collectivist view their are many pros such as: teaching team work and group goals. There is less conflict and social classes. Because all things are common, no one has more than the other, evryone relies on each other for support. Individualist tend to focus on "I" and "me", there is more competition and self independent goals. After analyzing each culture its really about your perception of "Choice" each group perceive a different choice which reflects a different outcome. No one choice is superior than the other per'se. Moreover, culture, background, social norm, and media are all external influences in each person. The stimuli from each variable is perceived differntly. Therfore each individual and or group perceives the world through their own unique lenses.

Ashley Jeffers said...

I tried to post this while I was home but my internet would disconnect when I posted; I saved my comment in a word document in case that would happen, and now checking back here again, my comment was never posted.

Growing up in my family, we have been taught to try and find a nice medium between being a collectivist and an individualist. Of course, our country has given us the power to actually participate in society as an individualist, allowing us all of our freedoms. Growing up, though, my mother lived on a reservation all her life in Canada. The whole tribe always did things in order to help the other band members. The collectivist society was definitely more present when she was growing up. Thus, she has obviously rubbed some of her ways off onto her children, stressing that it is important to think of others being affected in some situations. Finding that balance is very key, I believe.

Cristen Hardin said...

I enjoy the freedom of choice we have here in America, a individualistic cultured society. I am free to make choices the best choices that will allow me to accomplish my dreams and aspirations. The freedom of choice is one reason why this nation is so great. It creates competition, which to me is just motivation to be successful and take advantage of the opportunities we have in America. It creates a drive within me to be that best out there!

In collectivist cultures people are more focused on the success of the family or group rather than the individual. Their is no individual identity and competition is discouraged. I believe that choices that individuals make in their life create for them a combination of personality, skills, and experiences that makes them completely unique! This is something that should not go unnoticed, or be discouraged. People should take pride in their uniqueness and be able to use that to make choices that will allow them to succeed in life.