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Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error [Paperback]

Kathryn Schulz
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 29 2010
<p style="LINE-HEIGHT: normal; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt" class=MsoNormal><span style="FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman','serif'; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">“Both wise and clever, full of fun and surprise about a topic so central to our lives that we almost never even think about it.”<br />—Bill McKibben, author of <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet<br style="mso-special-character: line-break"><br style="mso-special-character: line-break"><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p></span>

<p style="LINE-HEIGHT: normal; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt" class=MsoNormal><span style="FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman','serif'; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">In the tradition of <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">The Wisdom of Crowds and<i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal"> Predictably Irrational comes <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">Being Wrong, an illuminating exploration of what it means to be in error, and why homo sapiens tend to tacitly assume (or loudly insist) that they are right about most everything. Kathryn Schulz, editor of <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">Grist magazine, argues that error is <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">the fundamental human condition and should be celebrated as such. Guiding the reader through the history and psychology of error, from Socrates to Alan Greenspan, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">Being Wrong will change the way you perceive screw-ups, both of the mammoth and daily variety, forever.<o:p></o:p></span>


Frequently Bought Together

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error + Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts + The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us
Price For All Three: CDN$ 38.50

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Product Description

Review

“A mirthful and wise diagnosis of what ails us: Schulz dances us through science, psychology, and literature in a sparkling history of (and ode to) human error.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

To err is human. Yet most of us go through life assuming (and sometimes insisting) that we are right about nearly everything, from the origins of the universe to how to load the dishwasher. In Being Wrong, journalist Kathryn Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken. Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she shows that error is both a given and a gift—one that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and ourselves.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Embrace your fallibility! May 27 2010
Format:Hardcover
Look back at the last argument you had with your loved one. Remember the things you said, and how you said them, simply to prove you were right. It is so easy to see the error in others and be blind to it in ourselves.

In Being Wrong: Adventures In The Margin Of Error, Kathryn Schulz takes you on a journey through the world of "wrongology". From the trivial (getting the time wrong for a reservation at a restaurant) to the life threatening (medical errors), Ms. Schulz examines the importance of accepting the inevitability of error and understanding the value of it in our lives.

Ultimately, it is wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are. It is the ability to accept responsibility for our errors and learn from them that allows us as to grow and develop as individuals, organizations and nations.

Take my advice and read this book. I know you'll enjoy it because I'm never wrong.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book Aug. 9 2011
By Tinsel
Format:Paperback
Just really, really liked it. It's smart, funny, wise, ironic, generous and fun. I'm more aware of the mistakes I make, and more forgiving of myself when I make them. A good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Sept. 13 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book. Really recommending reading it. Wish I didn't had to type 20 wards when I don't have anything to say
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not very enlightening. July 23 2011
By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book is a very entertaining and learned tour of wrongness and error in human history and psychology. However, look elsewhere for any kind of strong advice about how to handle your error-prone ways. This book just proves that the only remedy, seemingly, is to be philosophical about it and move along. There's really nothing else that can be done.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  146 reviews
142 of 143 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tour of Why and How We Err (and Why It May Be a Good Thing) March 30 2010
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
To err, we hear, is human. But if that is true, then why do we take erring so hard? This is the question Kathryn Schultz tries to get at in her book, Being Wrong. The first section analyzes error by recounting what philosophers, psychologists and others have thought about what it is and why it happens. Next, we examines the factors that lead us to err: senses deceive us, reason is easily influenced by extra-rational factors, we trust experts we like instead of those who may be telling the truth, etc. The third section explores what it feels like to be wrong: we may get embarrassed, defensive, heartbroken, mystified, angry. And lastly, the author reveals why it is she believes error should be seen not as a gaffe to be avoided, but a gaffe that should be embraced and accepted as an an inevitable part of being a finite and dynamic human.

First, I must say something I very rarely do about a book: I never once found this one repetitive or unnecessarily long. Each section, and chapter within it, is about a different aspect of error that was not discussed before, from how philosophers conceive of error, to the social factors that influence error, to our amazing capacity to deny even obvious error. And the real-world examples she chooses to illustrate all of these things are humorous, relateble, and sometimes a bit lamentable.

And what is the author's unique theory about erring? The author writes first that erring is an inevitable part of being human. We are finite animals for whom probability is as close as we can come to certainty (even though certainty is what we want). Since life demands that we make decisions based on what we think will happen in the future, it is simply inevitable that some of these will be wrong. That is not and should not be a recipe for skepticism, which is a lazy attempt to fend off error. The author argues that the only way to crack down on error, paradoxically, is to admit its inevitability. Being aware of the mistakes we make that lead to error is the only way to curb it: recognize that fallibility is a part of life (not stupidity), make an effort to 'hear the other side,' phrase your predictions provisionally and treat them as such. The more we realize that error is a human quality that leads to opportunities of growth, the more we can, to some degree or other, embrace it as part of who we are.

And what about if we didn't err? Well, if we didn't err, we couldn't ever change or grow (as change and growth are byproducts of trying to become better and closer to the truth). If we didn't err, then life would be a whole lot more predictable than it is, having good and bad repercussions. If we didn't err, we would never experience surprise or have reason to reflect or think deeply. In short, if we didn't err, we simply wouldn't be anything recognized, for good or worse, as human.

The only complaint I have about this book, as interesting and entertaining as it is, is that the author's "thesis" takes up only about 40 pages in a 340 page book, and comes only at the end. I would like her to have interwoven this point amongst all or many of the chapters, as it is a point which is not only highly interesting and counter-intuitive, but it could have served to really tie the book together.

Other than that, strongly recommended.
187 of 205 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A crafty - albeit a tad long-winded, preachy - analysis of being human. 3.5 Stars***^* April 26 2010
By Paul Stuart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
One thing is for certain: Kathryn Schulz is a heckuva' writer. Her brilliant interchange between humor and articulation is the stuff of greatness. Moreover - and perhaps a by-product of Schulz' mastery in presentation - there are few (if any) wasted words in this text. While many books almost goad you into skimming every 2nd or 3rd word, 'Being Wrong' certainly makes every word count. For a guy with the attention span of a billy goat grazing grass, keeping me reading every word is no small feat.

There is a tradeoff in such density in value. 'Being Wrong' tends to see-saw between light analogy to heavy exploration almost without warning, making for a staccato transition between example and execution. The philosophical arguments emerge as bloated at times, the case studies a tad soft and looooong. Word economy clearly has its strengths and weaknesses.

Thus, I echo other reviewers in that this book might've been better served both shorter and as a potential essay. Amen.

Going deeper down the content rabbit hole, it's hard to ignore Schulz' near-frequent lapses into political examples dripping with sarcasm favoring a particular perspective only. Perhaps I'm a stickler, but there something grossly unfit about an advertised objective analysis of 'wrong' justified through political opinion. After the fifth instance of this justification, I admittedly began to question the overarching arguments contained in the book. (I could care less about who you vote/d for; just don't put square peg into round hole to get the point across, ad nauseum.)

A couple hundred pages in, it dawned upon me that Schulz based her thesis - that recognition of wrong is against human norms while a precursor to personal and intellectual growth - on subjective historical application sans any true citation. I loved her first third of the book (the arguments were sound), but then later realized that none of it was based on anything other than Schulz' fit of historical circumstance to her view of the human experience. I again point to her being a fantastic writer; I simply wanted a price tag on that fresh piece of intellectual meat.

Related - and a minor but notable sticking point: I reviewed this book thinking it literally an exploration on 'margin of error,' a social scientific term meant to explain normal error distribution and statistical significance stemming from it. This book is anything but scientific. Just a warning for those looking for a fix in that area.

Please don't flame, 'un-helpful' this review for pointing out these two flaws (political-centric, no 'margin of error') above. I found them important contributions in helping folks determine expectations pre-purchase.

In sum, 'Being Wrong' is a very well written, articulate read...but does so being a tad dense and unsubstantiated and/or preachy argumentatively. I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could.
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Being wrong is normal! May 27 2010
By Rob S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This book caught my eye immediately. Who hasn't been embarrassed to admit being wrong? How often have you witnessed (or been part of) senseless arguments because neither side, once they've become entrenched in their position, are willing to back down or find a middle ground to resolve things?

I originally got this book as I was hoping for answers on how to deal with what I admit to be sometimes irrational behaviour to avoid admitting wrongness. I thought perhaps I'd get some advice on how to approach this sensitive topic with others (particularly in a business setting.) If you're looking for advice on dos and don'ts, some sort of behavioural checklist to overcome this sensation, then that's not what this book is about. (and the author says as much in her introduction.)

In a way though, even without a list of to-dos, the book has helped me feel more at ease about being wrong. Through stories shared of human error, through the exploration of just how our senses work and how our belief systems can fail us, through an examination of how we make decisions and evaluation evidence (and why it makes sense to do it that way), and examples where it actually feels good to be wrong (optical illusions, magic tricks), I started to come to terms on just how being wrong is perfectly "normal" and a part of who we are, and started to move away from the belief that being wrong meant I was sloppy, or stupid, or ignorant. It makes sense that our brains would want to take shortcuts for efficiency sake, and it makes sense that sometimes those shortcuts will be off. Plus looking at how often decisions are being made at the subconscious level underscores how much being fallible is hardwired into our system.

I thought the book was a great read, if nothing else, for the journey it took me through.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and informative; not an easy read April 4 2010
By Mark Hunsaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Kathryn Schulz does an excellent job of covering a tricky topic. The foundation for most of her observations comes from great philosophers, thinkers, and psychologists of the past and present, mixed with a healthy dose of classic literature and observations from its authors. This at times made the book a little difficult for me to traverse, but in the end the longer reading time balanced nicely with the thoroughness of the arguments (translation: it was worth the extra work). My biggest joys in reading came from the wide variety of interesting references, experiences, case studies, stories, and anecdotes that the author used to illustrate points throughout the book. I can appreciate the difficulty in researching and applying this information to fit the narrative so nicely.

It could be due to my own misplaced expectations, but I thought the book wandered a little bit... sort of floating around like a boat does when its anchor isn't quite big enough or doesn't catch on the bottom. She does go to great lengths in the beginning to spell out all the things the book is not, but I needed some more direction from her on what she hoped to accomplish. I didn't want to read a long, complex book just for intellectual kicks, so I drafted a rough idea (in my mind) of what I needed to take away from all the information when I finally did reach the end. Overall, this is a thought-provoking work on understanding all the facets of error, and one I comfortably recommend.
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite Right Oct. 26 2010
By Jaybird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The author is a journalist not a psychologist. She is over her head and out of her element on this one. The book is well written and interesting in parts, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere or leave you with much. If the subject of the book interests you, try "Mistakes Were Made(but not by me)". The title suggests a parody of some sort, but it isn't. In fact it is very descriptive of what is dealt with in the book. It was written by two social psychologists and is one of the best, most insightful, most useful books on psychology I've ever read. I'm in my 70s, and I've read more than a few.
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