There's an interesting Book Review in this morning's New York Times on "The Art of Choosing" by Sherrna Iyengar. The study is based upon a famous "jam experiment" where shoppers were offered either six different jams to sample or thirty. Surprisingly, although more shoppers stopped by the table with more samples, ten times more sales were made at the table with the limited choices!
The new study takes it a step further to look at the role of culture and religion in choice. Her findings reveal that Anglo college students respond most favorably when they have maximal choice, whereas Asian children performed better in response to a cue that they were instructed to do a particular task by their mothers! Significantly (for mediators, I thought), both groups resisted commands that were made by a stranger, third party.
Ms. Iyengar's findings also demonstrated that members of more fundamentalist faiths demonstrated more optimism than those without strict belief systems in a higher power. She discounts this finding by reminding readers that the study was conducted in the U.S., where members of a particular faith remain in that system by choice.
A provocative study which informs some difficult mediations for me. Too many choices can lead to obstacles instead of opportunities. And finding those options which the parties themselves offer can be much more effective than the mediator's proposal. Liberating and informative!