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