Sheena Iyengar

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Sheena Iyengar
Born (1969-11-29) November 29, 1969 (age 44)
Nationality American
Alma mater Stanford University
University of Pennsylvania
Occupation S.T. Lee Professor of Business and Director of Global Leadership Matrix
Employer Columbia Business School
Known for Academic research on Choice

Sheena Iyengar (born 1969) is the inaugural S.T. Lee Professor of Business in the Management Division at Columbia Business School [1][2][3] and the Director of the Global Leadership Matrix initiative. She is known for her research on choice.[1]


Sheena Iyengar was born in Toronto, Canada in 1969. Her parents had emigrated there from Delhi, India. In 1972, Iyengar’s family moved to Flushing, Queens, where her father helped establish the first permanent Sikh temple; and in 1979, the family moved to Elmwood Park, New Jersey.[1][4] Iyengar grew up in a bicultural environment, observing the tenets of Sikhism with her family but partaking in American culture outside of the home.[4]

When Iyengar was three years old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease of retinal degeneration.[4] By 6th grade, Iyengar had lost the ability to read, and by 11th grade, she had lost her sight entirely and could only perceive light. Iyengar’s life had also taken another turn in high school; when she was 13, her father died of a heart attack.[4]

In Iyengar’s book, The Art of Choosing, she explains how these seemingly random events and external influences, which shaped her life, led her to become interested in choice:

"My parents had chosen to come to this country, but they had also chosen to hold on to as much of India as possible. They lived among other Sikhs, followed closely the tenets of their religion, and taught me the value of obedience. What to eat, wear, study, and later on, where to work and whom to marry—I was to allow these to be determined by the rules of Sikhism and by my family’s wishes. But in public school I learned that it was not only natural but desirable that I should make my own decisions. It was not a matter of cultural background or personality or abilities; it was simply what was true and right. For a blind Sikh girl otherwise subject to so many restrictions, this was a very powerful idea. I could have thought of my life as already written, which would have been more in line with my parents’ views. Or I could have thought of it as a series of accidents beyond my control, which was one way to account for my blindness and my father’s death. However, it seemed much more promising to think of it in terms of choice, in terms of what was still possible and what I could make happen." (Iyengar, 2010, pp. xi-xii).[4]

In 1992, Sheena Iyengar graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School and a B.A. in psychology with a minor in English from the College of Arts and Sciences. She then earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Stanford University in 1997.[1][2][3] The following year, her dissertation, “Choice and its Discontents,” which asks the question: are there circumstances in which people are better off when they have their choices limited or entirely removed, received the prestigious Best Dissertation Award for 1998 from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.[1][2]

Academic career[edit]

Iyengar's focal line of research concerns choosing, and she has been studying how people perceive and respond to choice for two decades.[5][6][7][8] This work, as well as her work on globalization, has earned Iyengar much recognition. In 2002, she was the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Social Scientists for her work on cultural differences in decision making. Her research appears in academic journals of a wide range of disciplines such as economics, psychology, management, and marketing.[1] Not only is her work acclaimed in academia, but it has also attracted attention in other venues, as well. Her research has been cited in such periodicals as Fortune and Time magazines, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as on popular television programs such as The Today Show and The Daily Show. Her award-winning book, The Art of Choosing, which explores the mysteries of choice in everyday life, was listed in’s top ten books in Business & Investing of 2010 and shortlisted for the 2010 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.[1]

Iyengar has taught courses in Management at Columbia Business School since 1998. Specifically, she has taught courses in Globalization, Leadership, Entrepreneurial Creativity, and Decision Making to MBAs, Executive MBAs, and Executives.[1] In 2011, she was named a member of the Thinkers50, a global ranking of the top 50 management thinkers. She was recently awarded with the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Core Teaching from Columbia Business School, and chosen as one of the World’s Best B-School Professors by Poets and Quants.[1][2]

Sheena Iyengar is an Academic Member of the Behavioral Finance Forum, a Fellow at the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, an Oversight Board Member at the ING Institute for Retirement Research, and an Institute Fellow at TIAA-CREF. She has previously been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study and has received many grants from university, government and corporate institutions.[1]

One of her most famous experiments, as recorded in her book The Art of Choosing, is known as the jam study. After testing consumer response to qualitative differences in jam variety, she concluded that consumers who encountered fewer choices in jam were much more likely to buy the product than those who encountered a much greater assortment.[4][6]

Published works[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

Title Organization Date
World’s Best B-School Professors: Sheena Iyengar Columbia Business School October 2012
Dean’s Award for Outstanding Core Teaching Columbia Business School September 2012
Best Article Award Journal of Consumer Research September 2012
Voted Among Top 50 Most Influential Business Thinkers Thinkers50 November 2011
#4 Bestseller (Japanese edition) March & December 2011
#4 Non-Fiction Bestseller India Today August–September 2011
Publisher's Award for Excellence India Abroad June 2011
Honoree Sikh Centennial Gala April 2011
Gold Medal in General Business & Economics Axiom Business Book Awards March 2011
Top Ten Business & Investing Books of 2010 November 2010
Business Book of the Year 2010 Shortlist Financial Times and Goldman Sachs September 2010
Innovation in the Curriculum Teaching Award School (Group Award) Columbia Business School Fall 2005
Presidential Early Career Award for Social Scientists Executive Office of the President Office of Science and Technology Policy January 2002
Young Investigator Career Award National Science Foundation July 2001
Best Dissertation Award Society for Experimental Social Psychology October 1998


Title Organization Incumbency
Director Global Leadership Matrix 2012–Present
Faculty Advisory Board Member Center on Japanese Economy and Business 2012–Present
Fellow Society for Personality and Social Psychology 2011–Present
Faculty Advisory Committee Member & Research Director Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business 2009–Present
Advisory Board Member ING Institute for Retirement Research 2008–Present
Fellow Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University 2008–Present
Institute Fellow TIAA-CREF Institute 2007–Present
Academic Member Behavioral Finance Forum 2007–Present
Invited Fellow Institute for Advanced Study 2005–2006

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b c d e f Iyengar, Sheena (2010). The Art of Choosing. Twelve. ISBN 0-446-50410-6
  5. ^ Iyengar, S. S., & DeVoe, S.E. (2003). Rethinking the Value of Choice: A Cultural Perspective on Intrinsic Motivation. In Murphy-Berman, V. & Berman, J. (Eds.). Cross-Cultural Differences in Perspectives on the Self, 49, 129-174. London: University of Nebraska Press.
  6. ^ a b Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. (2000). When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 995-1006.
  7. ^ Botti, S., Orfali, K., & Iyengar, S.S. (2009). Tragic Choices: Autonomy and Emotional Response to Medical Decisions. Journal of Consumer Research, 36 (3), 337-352.
  8. ^ Iyengar, S.S., Wells, R.E., & Schwartz, B. (2006). Doing Better but Feeling Worse: Looking for the "Best" Job Undermines Satisfaction. Psychological Science, 17 (2), 143-150.

External links[edit]