Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A.O.C.: The Art & Science of Making Choices

Haley Scholar Reading Groups

In the opening of chapter of her book The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar clarifies and expounds on the idea of making choices. "When we speak of choice," she writes, "what we mean is the ability to exercise control over ourselves and our environment. In order to chose, we must first perceive that control is possible."

According to Iyengar, who has done quite a bit of research on how and why people make certain choices, the ability to and perception of choices are often culturally situated and at times it appears biologically influenced.

Iyengar really covers a lot of ground, providing a variety of examples as she sets up the overall topic of choosing. I was fascinated by her description of "how much choice animals technically had was far less important than how much choice they felt they had." The idea that perceptions of choices matter a great deal intrigued me.

But what about you--what's one concept raised in the chapter that drew your interest? In brief, explain why that concept or example was notable or intriguing to you.


Joe Brown said...

I found the idea that stress is related to one's perception of the ability to choose quite fascinating. It implies that stress is a result of choice. One could even go further to say that the mental component of stress in itself a choice.

While saying this, I mean that stress is a reaction to one's environment. There are many ways to react to a stimulus. One could be proactive like shipwrecked Steven Callahan. One could ponder an action, and calmly reach a solution even under extreme conditions, as Joe Simpson did.

Now, as common sense dicates, the mental component of stress is a result of a lack of choice or difficult choices. But perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps it is the mental component of stress that results in a sense of lack of choice or the sense that a choice is difficult.

Hilary Conrad said...

I found a couple of the concepts in the chapter interesting. The first thing that caught my attention was the experiment about the dogs and the mice. The experiment with the mice bothered me because the mice had no choice but to die, but I understand that it gave great information in learning the "art of choosing". The dogs that had no control felt helpless and gave up easier, even when they had a chance to escape. In both cases, power and control gave hope to the animals. It is sad to see that the animals would give up because they felt they had no control over the situation. I never thought about it, but this too is how my thought process works. As a sophomore on the track team, I have much more confidence in the brutal workouts than I did last year since I have done them all already. I know that they are survivable so I can push my self harder instead of holding back in fear that I will run out of energy.

Shawn C. said...

The idea that I found most interesting about this chapter was the idea that choice can be influenced by external factors that may prove to give hope in certain situations.

Drastic situations in which a choice of persistacne is needed it is seen that an increase in hope is given when a glimpse of hope is shed upon the situation. For example, the mouse in a situation where drowning was ineveitable chose to shoe more persistance after the handler rescued it from its death in a few instances, swimming for 60 straight hours.

This i believe can be correlated to our lives as college students, we seem to just be treading water attempting to keep our heads above the water. However the idea that eventually we will be rescued from the stresses of school work, external stresses, and the idea of possible failure, gives us an idea of persistance and motivates us to keep treading that water for just a little bit longer.

Jaimie Belen said...

One that that intrigued me in the opening of "The Art of Choosing" was the zoo animals. Zoo animals seem like they have it all-the food, the comfort, the habitat, and so on.

However, the animals didn't have control. As a result, they health was worse because their bodies were in constant "flight-or-fight" mode since they weren't in control of their life.

It is just a clear, cut example of the fact that perceived amount of control is important in all animals, including humans.

-Jaimie Belen

Maame A said...

The part of chapter one that intrigued me the most was when the author, Sheena Iyengar, discussed how the desire to choose is innate. She then talked about how there was a study done with babies where the infants would pull a string and hear pleasant music, but when the researchers would play the music at random times, the babies got upset. This knowledge made me start to think that the right to choose should be given too everyone not only because that is whats right, but that's how us as humans are wired. Also those, such as dictators and ones that take away peoples choosing power, should be condemned because it is human nature to choose what you want.

Robin C said...

I found it ironic that the our "most powerful tool" in controling our environment was said to be the ability to choose, but as illustrated in the rat and dog experiments our ability to make a choice depends greatly on our previous environment. We need to have an idea that there is hope to succeed.The action of choosing may be automatic but the type pf choice made depends previous situations and experiences.

Robert B said...

I too found the idea that perception of choice is more important than actual ability to choose interesting. As one who read outliers two semesters ago, I believe that all of us are limited in how much we can affect our lives. Often there are social, mental, or biological boundaries that prevent us from doing what we would like. In a philosophy course last year, I read a piece that claimed humans don't really have true free will at all. It was very convincing, and I am a believer in that idea. However the only way for society to continue functioning is for people to believe in their ability to choose, and autonomously affect the world.

Aurelia Daniels said...

One concept that drew my attention was the experiment with the rats. First off, I know that it has nothing to do with the posed question but I found it very disturbing and unethical to make those rats suffer trying to fight for their lives knowing that the whole purpose of the experiment was for them to die. Poor rats!

Anyway, going back into the topic, this part caught my attention because it was interesting to see that even rats, who are far less intelligent than humans, had the instinct that told them if they escaped near death situations before then they could do it again.

It amazed me that rats could have what I believe to be faith. They had faith in themselves; the same way that humans possess faith in themselves or even in a higher power.

Before reading this chapter I already held the belief that we are who we choose to be but that was because I had experienced that in my own life, but reading this chapter helped me to put my belief in context.

I really enjoyed this chapter and I believe that as a future social worker I could really gain wisdom that I can then pass on to clients in the future.

Anonymous said...

For me, the most interesting concept brought up in chapter one was when Sheena Iyengar askes, "What would you do?" I have heard many stories similar to the ones she referenced in which a man or woman chooses not to give up. It's incredible to me what people are able to do when they are faced with such situations.

I have asked myself this same question in the past. What would I do if that happened to me? I usually imagine myself feeling helpless and I'm not sure I would make it.

The way Iyengar explains it though, choosing to live, not only in extreme circumstances, but in everyday life as well, was inspiring. If we are the sum total of the choices we make, we had better get out there and start choosing, start living.

Alexis C.

Tia Borders Baptist said...

I found very interesting was about the story of Callahan surviving on the sea. Some of the questions that were asked made me think. He said he didnt hear the verdict of death but the question "Do you want to Live?"
When it comes to my thought process i know if i was in his situation i probably wouldve asuumed death was my end result. I find it very interest that death wasnt even a thought. I would love to get to a point in my life, where i could think so positive without the help of others.The thought of being strided on a island or at sea bring so much fear. Callanhan didnt really panic instead he was proactive.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Robin about our "most powerful tool" is the ability to choose. After reading that and personally thinking about my life, I feel as though all positive things that have happened in my life is based on a prior choice I have made in my life. Everything we do in life is based on some type of choice, how you make that choice is another story, but everything we do has to do with a personal decision that we have made.
Some people are not only successful by knowledge but by their choice to go out and learn more and apply their selves.
-Dino Anagbogu