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Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts Paperback – May 5 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (May 5 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156033909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156033909
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #71,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

PRAISE FOR CAROL TAVRIS’S ANGER

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

PRAISE FOR ELLIOT ARONSON’S THE SOCIAL ANIMAL

"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."

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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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) was featured a while ago on an episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast as a recent book that deals with the cognitive biases we face when our opinions are demonstrated to be wrong, particularly confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. The main thesis of the book describes what the authors call "self-justification": the ways we convince ourselves (rightly or not) that a particular action or belief is correct.

In particular, the authors posit that most problems arise when we make a series of incremental self-justifications. This way, it's nearly impossible to know (at the time) when we've passed the point of justifiable belief (the belief can be factual but is more often moral or ethical). For instance, if a pharmaceutical company outright approached a doctor and asked him/her to preferentially prescribe their new drug in exchange for payment, the doctor would probably refuse on ethical grounds. But say the pharmaceutical company first hires the doctor to give a community lecture on depression and mental health—this seems acceptable. Next, they hire the doctor to give a community lecture on anti-depressants—well, this isn't so ethically different from the last lecture, the doctor thinks. Finally, the pharmaceutical company hires the doctor to give a lecture on *their* new antidepressant. The doctor compares the ethics of this new prospect with the last lecture he/she gave, rationalizes it as only a small, incremental change, and proceeds to shill for the compnay's new drug in exchange for payment. Somewhere along the line we would say an ethical line was crossed, but for the doctor, every step has been incremental and no decision stands out as that much worse than the last. A similar example comes from the Milgram experiment.
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I've often wondered how seemingly good honest people turn into dishonest and self serving politicians. This book covers a lot of experiments and examples that show how little by little, small acts of dishonesty, eventually lead to the justification of big acts of dishonesty. You get a man to lose his ethical compass one step at a time.

Self justification is a scary thing we do to preserve our ego and even ourselves. It's more powerful than a lie and it is absolutely more dangerous than a lie because we're not conscious that we're doing it.

This is such an excellent book for revealing why we do that as humans, helping you see where you might be hiding the truth from yourself and understanding how it plays into your attempts to influence others. The research covered in this book is great ... not too scientific but detailed enough that you understand what the point is.

For a business person or anyone interested in human psychology, but not wanting a hard read, this book will be highly satisfying for you!

From business to home (there is an entire chapter dedicated to how this plays into marriages) - this book will equip you with useful insights into the human mind and behaviors around mistakes and justifications for them. And you'll be in a better position to learn from your mistakes and help influence others when they are dead wrong too. :)
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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 our heads against since we've been born. I made my way to this book, and when reading it not only have I inwardly shouted, "yes! yes!" a thousand times, I've also been made to think, made to squirm, learned a huge amount about pyschological research out there, and been immensely entertained. Of great interest to me are the parts when Tavris and Aronson turn their sights towards psychology and psychologists themselves, revealing stuck thinking, obstinacy, and willful blindness towards methodologies of therapy that don't sit with their pet theories. It's a stark warning to any of us in the therapy business, some of whom might pat themselves on the back for being helpful without moving forward themselves - and to all those brave and wonderful people seeking therapy as well. Even if you don't fall into either of these categories, this is a really insightful, engaging, hit-the-bullseye book. I devoured it, and will turn to it again and again!
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