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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?

Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.

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.

Frequently Bought Together

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts + Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average
Price For Both: CDN$ 27.43

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"Witty, provocative, and impressively documented, this work lights a candle in cursed darkness."—LOS ANGELES TIMES


"A rare gem of a book, easy to read but also scientifically sophisticated."—CONTEMPORARY SOCIOLOGY

"Social psychologists Tavris and Aronson, each of whom has published other works, here tackle "the inner workings of self-justification," the mental gymnastics that allow us to bemoan the mote in our brother's eye while remaining blissfully unaware of the beam in our own. Their prose is lively, their research is admirable and their examples of our arrogant follies are entertaining and instructive."

"A fascinating book... I recommend it to anyone who enjoys psychological and sociological studies. Sometimes floored, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes amused, but always interested, I can only hope that I will be able to apply some of what I learned in my own life."

"A pathbreaking book that could change forever how leaders think about the decisions they make . Crackles with new insights and understanding. A must read!"

"This book should make it to the top of most summer reading lists. It speaks to the forces that keep us repeating harmful mistakes, whether it's an everyday personal issue or an organization-wide problem. I'm interested in reading this book for a deeper window into my own behavior, but also for insight into the reasons that corruption persists around the world and vexes so many organizational and individual efforts to fight it."

"In this pre-election time, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson's book bears a very prescient message: Just how does one learn from one's mistakes if one refuses to admit culpability? With straightforward language and a readable style, Tavris and Aronson's book will open your eyes and improve your life - that is, it will if you let it."

"This book is charming and delightful. But mainly, it's just damn smart. Armed with reams of scientific data and loads of real-world anecdotes, Tavris and Aronson explain how politicians, pundits, doctors, lawyers, psychotherapists--and oh yes, the rest of us--come to believe that we are right and reasonable... and why we maintain that dangerous self-deception in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary. Every page sparkles with sharp insight and keen observation. Mistakes were made--but not in this book!"

"To err is human, to rationalize even more so. Now, thanks to this brilliant book, we can finally see how and why even the best meaning people may justify terrible behavior. Mistakes Were Made will not turn us into angels, but it is hard to think of a better -- or more readable -- guide to the mind's most devilish tricks."

"Tavris and Aronson-a dream team of two of psychology’s greatest communicators—investigate our self-serving explanations and malleable memories, explaining how well-meaning people stay the course when pursuing ill-fated ventures, then shuck responsibility when failure arrives. This is a fascinating exploration of our astonishing powers of self-justification."

"Combining far-ranging scholarship with lucid, witty prose, Tavris and Aronson illuminate many of the mysteries of human behavior -- why hypocrites never see their own hypocrisy, why couples so often misremember their shared history, why many people persist in courses of action that lead straight into quicksand. A delight to read, with surprising revelations in every chapter."

"This eye-opener of a book is essential reading, not because we've all made mistakes - certainly not! - but because we've all been victims of mistakes made by others. Why do these people behave so badly? Tavris and Aronson's explanation is illuminating, entertaining, based on solid science, and highly relevant to our public and private lives."

"Please, somebody, get a copy of this book to the President and his cabinet right away. Read it aloud into the Congressional Record. If this book doesn't change the way we think about our mistakes, then we're all doomed."

"A revelatory study of how lovers, lawyers, doctors, politicians--and all of us--pull the wool over our own eyes. The politician who can't apologize, the torturer who feels no guilt, the co-worker who'll say anything to win an argument--in case you've ever wondered how such people can sleep at night, a new book by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson supplies some intriguing and useful insights. 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. By the book's end, we're far more attuned to the ways in which we avoid admitting our missteps, and intensely aware of how much our own (and everyone's) lives would improve if we--and those who govern and lead us--understood the power and value of simply saying, 'I made a mistake. I'm sorry.'"

"Tavris and Aronson have combined their formidable skills to produce a gleaming model of social insight and scientific engagement. Make no mistake, you need to read this book."

"Written with the perfect combination of science and snap, this is a book that will change the way you think about self-deception--how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it."

"Anecdote-rich...a ramble through the evasive tactics we employ when we've done something wrong and don't want to face up to it. "Mistakes Were Made" is by turns entertaining, illuminating and--when you recognize yourself in the stories it tells--mortifying. It is certainly true that we can be artful to the point of self-delusion when we feel guilt for something we have done."

"This book casts a bright and penetrating light on how and why nation-states, organizations, and individuals get into malignant messes. But it also shows how they (NOT us) cluelessly keep repeating these offensive, sometimes criminal acts. Tavris and Aronson don't let any of us off the hook but they do teach us how to avoid hanging ourselves on that hook again and again. One of the most needed and important books for our time."

About the Author

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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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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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelatory March 29 2009
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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4.0 out of 5 stars worth reading Feb. 10 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 shelf.
None of their examples of " foolish beliefs " include politically correct dogma which means the authors might want to read their own book .
A book that might help you attain detachment so in one way it might be called a spiritual book .
I enjoyed it
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - No dissonance on this review. Nov. 19 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. It looks at how we can hold two opposing moral thoughs in our head and try to rationalize both and how it can end up destroying not only us, but those around us. Great research, stories and concepts to make you realize your own cognitive dissonance. Check it out!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! June 9 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great self insight March 19 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Information to help with self evaluation and how we are influenced by others. Who owns the mistake? Read it to find out.
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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
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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