The saying goes that history repeats itself; personal histories do the same. We can gather the lessons of others' lives through observation, conversation, and by seeking advice. We can use the automatic system to find out who the happy people are, and the reflective system to evaluate how they got to be that way. Pursuing happiness need not be a lonely endeavor. In fact, throwing in our lot with others may be a very good way of coping with the disappointments of choice.
In America we tell our parents to bring their child home and put him or her in a crib; as they get older, children sleep in they own room not in Mom and Dad's room. What are we training them for? It's independence, because that's what being empowered is all about.
Now if you expand their choice set. Say you give them 20 different speed dates, everything goes out the window. Everybody starts choosing in accordance with looks because that becomes the easiest criteria by which to weed out all the options and decide "So who am I going to say yes to?"
They [people] start asking themselves "Well which one is the best? Which one would be good for me?" And all those questions are much easier to ask if you're choosing from six than when you're choosing from 24 and if you look at the marketplace today most often we have a lot more than 24 of things to choose from.
You get to decide how you're going to look and what you're going to be when you grow up and when people learned that my parents actually had an arranged marriage people thought that was the most horrific thing on earth. I mean how could anybody allow their marriage of all things to be prescribed by somebody else?
About the only question that we would say and this is a big one in our lives that we would say you don't just use pure reason to decide the answer to is anything that affects your happiness, because then gut and reason answer very different questions. So gut tells you "How do I feel about this right now?"
It's always a thrilling experience to go into a place that offers you a lot of choice. You know it's like it reminds you of when you're a kid and you go to the amusement park and whether it be Disneyworld or Six Flags you know that thrilling moment when you first enter and you know you've got all these possibilities for the day and it's really a... it's a wonderful feeling.
I used to go to this store called Draeger's and you had a little bit of that same feeling because this was a store that offered you so many varieties, things you'd never contemplated before, you know like 250 mustards and vinegars and over 500 different kinds of fruits and vegetables, or over 2 dozen different types of water.
About the only time our gut can truly outperform our reason is if we truly have developed a kind of informed intuition. So that means the chess master or someone who has really thought about it and given themselves feedback on a particular activity for at least 10,000 hours or more.
People were actually 6 times more likely to buy a jar of jam if they had encountered 6 than if they encountered 24, so what we learned from this study was that while people were more attracted to having more options, that's what sort of got them in the door or got them to think about jam, when it came to choosing time they were actually less likely to make a choice if they had more to choose from than if they had fewer to choose from.
In fact, even in that store Draeger's they had 348 different kinds of jam actually in the jam aisle. And what we found over about, say, 10 years of research is that as the number of choices actually increase people are less likely to make a choice and sometimes they do this even when it's really bad for them.
We do the same thing in our own lives, embracing information that supports what we already prefer or vindicates choices we previously made.After all, it feels better to justify our opinions rather than challenge them, to contemplate only the pros and relegate the cons to the back of our minds. However, if we want to make the most of choice, we have to be willing to make ourselves uncomfortable. The question is, if we are willing, how exactly do we go about fortifying ourselves against these biases?
First-generation children were strongly influenced by their immigrant parents approach to choice. For them, choice was not just a way of defining and asserting their individuality, but a way to create community and harmony by deferring to the choices of people whom they trusted and respected.
The quality of health care continues to improve, and people are living longer, but these developments mean that we're likely to eventually find ourselves in a situation in which we're forced to make difficult choices about our parents, other loved ones, or even ourselves that ultimately boil down to calculations of worth and value.
One could even argue that we have a duty to create and pass on stories about choice because once a person knows such stories, they can't be taken away from him. He may lose his possessions, his home, his loved ones, but if he holds on to a story about choice, he retains the ability to practice choice.
It's easy to assume people are conforming when we witness them all choosing the same option, but when we choose that very option ourselves, we have no shortage of perfectly good reasons for why we just happen to be doing the same thing as those other people; they mindlessly conform, but we mindfully choose. This doesn't mean that we're all conformists in denial. It means that we regularly fail to recognize that others' thoughts and behaviors are just as complex and varied as our own. Rather than being alone in a crowd of sheep, we're all individuals in sheep's clothing.
When Japanese went to Hawaii they would go straight and buy the same thing that they would buy in Japan. They just got it cheaper, which they liked. And so they would still eat the red bean ice cream or the green tea ice cream, but they didn't really take advantage of the variety and it wasn't clear that they cared.
I was living, growing up in a very traditional household and yet at the same time I was going to school in the United States where I was taught the importance of personal preference, so at home it was all about learning your duties and responsibilities whereas in school it was all about well you get to decide what you want you want to eat.
I've done a number of studies with speed dating and Match.com and what's interesting is that you know we still walk into a speed dating event, you know, thinking about what it is we're looking for in a mate and so you ask people, like women will say "I'm looking for somebody who is really kind and sincere and smart and funny."
This is at a time when you know most of us drank tap water, so I used to go to this store and examine all the varieties and we used to marvel at all the choices out there, but I found that I rarely bought anything and I kind of thought that was kind of curious. I mean, they had things that the other grocery stores didn't have and yet I never bought anything.
I put out a good 10 different types of drinks for them and they just said, "Oh, okay, so it's just one choice." One choice? I gave you Coke, Pepsi, Ginger Ale, Sprite. They saw that as one choice. Now why was that one choice? Because they felt, well, it was just all soda.