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Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts [Paperback]

Carol Tavris , Elliot Aronson
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 31 2008
Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell?

Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception—how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.


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Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts + Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril + Deep Survival
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Review

PRAISE FOR MISTAKES WERE MADE (BUT NOT BY ME)

 

"Thanks, in part, to the scientific evidence it provides and the charm of its down-to-earth, commonsensical tone, Mistakes Were Made is convincing. Reading it, we recognize the behavior of our leaders, our loved ones, and—if we're honest—ourselves, and some of the more perplexing mysteries of human nature begin to seem a little clearer."—Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine

"By turns entertaining, illuminating and—when you recognize yourself in the stories it tells—mortifying."—The Wall Street Journal

From the Back Cover

Every page sparkles with sharp insight and keen observation. Mistakes were madebut not in this book! Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell? Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deceptionhow it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it. "Hypocrisy is hardest to see in oneself. Tavris and Aronson, both social psychologists, demonstrate the whys and hows of this maxim by blending research with anecdotal evidence from celebrities, presidents, and CEOs."--Psychology Today "Thanks, in part, to the scientific evidence it provides and the charm of its down-to-earth, commonsensical tone, Mistakes Were Made is convincing. Reading it, we recognize the behavior of our leaders, our loved ones, andif we're honestourselves, and some of the more perplexing mysteries of human nature begin to seem a little clearer."Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine CAROL TAVRIS is a social psychologist and author of Anger and The Mismeasure of Woman. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Scientific American, and many other publications. She lives in Los Angeles. ELLIOT ARONSON is a social psychologist and author of The Social Animal. The recipient of many awards for teaching, scientific research, writing, and contributions to society, he is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Visit www.MistakesWereMadeButNotByMe.com.

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First Sentence
IT'S FASCINATING, AND SOMETIMES funny, to read doomsday predictions, but it's even more fascinating to watch what happens to the reasoning of true believers when the prediction flops and the world keeps muddling along. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelatory March 29 2009
Format:Paperback
I highly recommend this book. The insight you will gain into yourself and everyone around you makes it more than worth the price. I find myself muttering "cognitive dissonance" under my breath frequently whenever I observe people espousing ridiculous notions and defending irrational claims. It has helped me as a classroom to teacher to understand the motivations behind many of my students' behaviours. If you do not go to get this book, a mistake will have been made by you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It is difficult to change your mind, and it is especially difficult to admit that you have made a mistake. This book explains how we become committed to our own initial decisions, even when all the evidence suggests we were wrong. The authors provide numerous real examples of people who made decisions that turned out to be mistakes, such prosecutors who successfully pursued criminal cases, only to later learn that the defendant was in fact innocent. It is very hard to admit you were wrong, after you put someone in jail for years.

Mistakes Were Made provides some wonderful insight into how the human mind works -- and how it often fails to work. No system is perfect, and the human mind, for all its abilities, is certainly no exception to that rule. Yet, by understanding the way the mind works, and the mistakes we are prone to make, we can learn to reduce those mistakes and improve ourselves. Everyone should read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing look at Psychology Feb. 19 2010
By Liz
Format:Paperback
There are so many books out there giving psychology a bad name. Tavis and Aronson get it. They demand the use of the scientific method in psychology and point out the differences between the ill-conceived ideas that lead to pseudo-psychology and the real deal. And the differences are vast. In the process, we are given insightful information (of the scientific variety) and thoughtful presentations. We are asked to think about our motives and our hard-wiring.

Every wonder why people say things that are obviously not true? How the Nazis could have been so far out there? How do people go on believing the end of the world is coming when it didn't end last year (as they predicted)? What about those folks who say they were abducted by aliens? How come the perfect marriage falls apart? Where do those sickos come from who exist in our society? How can juries of 12 honest people listen to the facts for a lengthy trial and then turn around and convict an innocent person or let a murderer go free?

This book provides us with sound well-researched answers. VERY insightful. I borrowed the book, but having read it, now I have to buy it. It is one I need to own. If you're the least bit interested in the inner workings of the human mind, this book will give you lots of facts and lots to think about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering Nov. 28 2009
Format:Paperback
We all know that taking responsibility for our actions is the right thing to do. But why do so many people -- some of them very influential -- fail to do so?

This engaging book tells dozens of fascinating stories, some of them well-known historical accounts, some of them from the news. They come from medicine, the criminal justice system, marriage, and nations. In all these stories, people deal awkwardly with situations, make bad decisions, behave foolishly or cruelly, or hold strange beliefs. The stories alone would make this book a great read.

The common thread running through all the stories, the common reason for all the behaviours, is a simple subconscious act: self-justification.

The psychological term "cognitive dissonance" is well known: the tension that occurs when a person holds two inconsistent cognitions. Typically, one will be a thought, a belief or a value and the other will be something the person does or did. For instance, "eating a lot will make me fatter" and "I really like my coffee and cake every afternoon".

What few people seem to realize is how difficult it is for us to live with cognitive dissonance, and how self-justification automatically kicks in: the elaborate mental gymnastics we do to justify *to ourselves* what we've done. "The cake puts me in a good mood". "It's instead of a snack". "I just have to have it". "I exercise so much anyway".

The authors go to great lengths to explain that self-justification isn't just about clever excuses or not admitting mistakes. It's a natural subconscious mechanism that helps us go on living. The trouble with it -- which they communicate eloquently and unequivocally -- is that it often backfires, getting us deeper in trouble.

Some of their examples are chilling.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) Oct. 7 2007
By Tami Brady HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sometimes, I think that the world is full of hypocrites. The news is full of politicians who preach family values and then are caught in an affair. Everyday we see religious advocates who call for peace and in the same breath state that their God is the only true God. Then, there's the business world where lying and cheating seem to be part of the game.

Sometimes, I wonder how these people live with themselves.

Mistake Were Made (but not by me) addresses that exact question. It would seem that the human mind is designed to selectively remember and process information. Thus, the politician, religious leader, business person, or even ourselves often don't realize that we are being hypocritical. Moreover, as our actions and logic become further and further separated, we tend to hold tighter onto our original notions. Instead of admitting that we were wrong, we justify our actions even more strongly.

Mistake Were Made (but not by me) was a huge eye opener. People don't justify stupid decisions because they are bad people. On the contrary, no one wants to admit they are a fool. Look within, what beliefs do you fight the most adamantly about?
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars worth reading
Simply written . Easy read . Well researched .
It is only worth reading if you are ready to loosen your attachments to your own belief systems otherwise leave it on the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by stuart southmore
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - No dissonance on this review.
Cognitive Dissonance was something I never understood until i read this book. I heard it in a YouTube rant once and so I decided to check it out and I was not disappointed. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Trent Norman Ross Gillespie
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
If you really want to consider how you really,really make choices, you must read this excellent book.

You will quickly recognize the truth of our decision making!
Published 16 months ago by Rod Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars Great self insight
Information to help with self evaluation and how we are influenced by others. Who owns the mistake? Read it to find out.
Published 19 months ago by Sharon Hillier
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book
I'm doing a Masters of Counselling Psychology and came across cognitive dissonance theory, which is a neatly simple way of explaining human behaviour that we've all been banging... Read more
Published on Oct. 12 2011 by Laura Merton
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for understanding why we stick to foolish decisions
Carol Tavris has written a book that explains the most extraordinary human ability to deny the facts, appearing to be delusional and/or so self-absorbed absorbed as to be hiding... Read more
Published on March 16 2009 by Tiina A. Payson
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