One of the challenges facing graduate students,
post-docs and career changers is what
career path should I take. Related to this is:
Where should I work?
Been thinking about “choice” and the ‘art of
choosing’ that has led to me a revealing book
by Sheena Iyengar of Wharton School of
Business. The art of choosing is far from a
science and is woven together by narratives.
Nonetheless, science can be applied to choosing
and the recognition of choice options (trivial vs.
important, single part vs.multi-part decisions).
Iyengar points out that our choices often can
determine how we perceive ourselves and wish
to be perceived. Our personal narratives can
hold sway over what we make choices on and
what choices we make. When we ask ourselves
what we want, what will please us, what will be
the best for ourselves and people near to us,
we realize a significant difference between
Individualist societies (US) consider their own
needs, wants, rights and contracts, focusing on
their personal goals. Those with collectivist
backgrounds prize being members of groups
to which they belong. They strive to fit in and
maintain harmony following norms of and
duties imposed in these social constructs.
Rather than absolutes, this model offers a
range of extremes that guides when and what
Many commercial and political arenas take
their cues from approaches to reach “our full
potential”. Funny that most people even in
individualist societies who want to be unique,
are quite similar.
Marketing and commercial concerns build on
how our minds associate to recall and process.
They look for “priming” cues. Thus, when we
are interviewing for positions assessing and
projecting the critical cues advertises to the
interviewers that we can fit in.
CHOICES– CRITICAL AND TRIVIAL
Helpful notions about choosing come from
identifying what are the important choices
we make and choosing among “constrained
choices.” Most people can deal with a choice
among five to nine items. More than 7 +/- 2,
throws people into confusion.
CHOOSING IS A SKILL
You want to have choice. But, it is not an absolute
that more choice means more freedom and
more freedom means greater benefit. More choice
can lead people to be miserable, resulting from
loss of opportunity, due to limited options,
an escalation of expectations and
It is helpful to have some constraints and to lower
Simplify your decision rules. Obtain recommendations,
go to experts in areas that are significant and you lack
expertise, the time or the inclination to go into depth.
Increase your expertise to offset your weaknesses
and some limits to your cognitive abilities.
There can be reactance to lack of choice (You have no
optiions.), but this may not be real.
There can be unintended consequences of choice.
(Cigarette taxes encourages black market.)
There is much art in choice since there is uncertainty