Get to Know Sheena S. Iyengar

Sheena HeadShotProfessor Sheena S. Iyengar has dedicated her career to the study of choice—why it matters, how we choose and how we can choose better.

The subject of choice has been a pervasive theme in Sheena’s life since childhood. Raised by Sikh immigrants in New York, the framework of choice for Sheena was initially governed by religious and cultural expectations. Sheena was diagnosed with a rare retinal degenerative disease as a child, and growing up blind in America, a country that prides itself on having the freedom to choose, Sheena found herself questioning what choice was and what its limits were.

A world-leading expert on choice and decision making, Sheena has spent over two decades examining the patterns of human decision making and exposing its contradictions. What brought Sheena to the attention of the public, and raised her status in social science circles, was her jam study ‘more is less!’ in the 1990s.

At the time Sheena was doing her doctorate at Stanford. She and her research students invited supermarket shoppers to taste jam of different flavours. The jam pots were laid out in sets of six and 24, what they discovered was that those who visited the table with the smaller sampling were more likely to purchase the jam. Sheena used this study to show that decision making is often tied to a puzzling contradiction: when it comes to choice, more is often less. The excess or overload of choice can actually inhibit human ability to make the most of the choices presented.

Sheena has focused on researching further the psychology of choice, and has continued to explore how people make decisions in social contexts that have seemingly endless options. In her bestselling book, ‘The Art of Choosing’, Sheena draws on her expansive research to try and help us choose more effectively. She asks, and answers, impossible and fascinating questions: how much control do we really have over what we choose? Is the desire for choice innate or driven by culture?

‘The Art of Choosing’ received a Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year 2010 award, and was ranked #3 on the Best Business and Investing Books of that same year.

Sheena is the inaugural S.T Lee Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, where she teaches a wide range of topics, spanning globalisation, authenticity and recently ‘big ideas’. She will be addressing the theme of ‘The Power of Choice’ at the International Dementia Conference in June. Get your tickets here.

This content may be reproduced, please credit: Copyright © Dementia Conference 2018. All Rights Reserved

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