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Sheena S. Iyengar is the inaugural S. T. Lee Professor of Business in the Management Division of the Columbia Business School. She has earned an Innovation in the Teaching Curriculum[…]

Animals, like humans, want to exert control over their lives with choices. Humans show this desire from a young age.

Question: Are all animals capable of making choices, or just rnthose with a higher cognitive ability?

Sheena Iyengar: rn What we share with animals is a desire for choice.  It’s a desire to rnhave control over our life and a desire to live and use choice as a way rnin which we can facilitate our ability to live and that is something we rnreally were born with.  You know, whether it be humans or animals. So rneven humans–before we can speak or we can understand a baby’s rncognition–they’re already showing us signs that they want choice.  You rnknow, you take a little infant and you turn on the music mobile on theirrn crib and you find that if you give them a music mobile which turns on rnautomatically versus a music mobile in which–if by chance their little rnlegs or their little hands accidentally touches it–turns on they’re so rnmuch more excited if by chance it turns on because they touched it, so rnthat desire for control over their environment is… really appears from rnvery early on and if you look at children’s first words, “no, yes.”  My rnchild’s first word was "more," but and it’s all about, “I want.”  “I’m rngoing to tell you what I want and what I don’t want.”  It’s about my rndesire to express my preferences.  And that is really innate.  Now to rnwhat…?  How we teach people to make choices and the things they’re goingrn to make choices over–that is culturally learned.