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Mastering an Art Leads to Fewer Choices

Question: Americans today have an abundance of choices. Is \r\nthat a good thing?

Sheena Iyengar:  Well certainly not\r\n having any choice–having your entire life dictated by others...  You \r\nknow, like, none of us would choose–no matter where we are in the \r\nworld–would choose to you know become a member of Orwell’s "Nineteen \r\nEighty-Four" world, but how much choice is really the question.  I mean \r\nwe know that some choice makes you better off than no choice.  Now do we\r\n get better off if we go from a lot of choice versus a few choices?  And\r\n there I think the answer is much, much, much more complicated.  If you \r\ntruly have expertise–and expertise can be say a chess master who has \r\nreally mastered something or an artist or a musician of some sort you \r\nknow if you give a jazz musician... Once the jazz musician learns all \r\nthe fundamentals they can keep track of a lot of choices in an instant. \r\n A chess master can keep track of more choices than the number of stars \r\nin the galaxy within an instant, but these are people that have truly \r\nlearned and mastered the choices that they have and how to deal with \r\nthose choices over a very, very long period of training, so essentially \r\nwhat they’re really doing is ruling out all the irrelevant choices and \r\nonly zeroing in on the most relevant, useful choices at the moment. So \r\nmost of the time when we are confronted by more, rather than a few, \r\nchoices we’re often novices and so we don’t really know how to \r\ndifferentiate these various options.  We also don’t always know what we \r\nwant. And in those cases it can actually make us worse off because it’s \r\nactually easier to figure out what you want and to figure out how the \r\noptions differ if you have about a handful of them than if you have a \r\nhundred of them. 

Most of the time, when we're confronted by an abundance of choices, it's because we’re novices and don’t know how to differentiate between them.

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