Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts Paperback – May 5 2008
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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.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
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. If participants were asked to outright turn up the shock voltage to 450 V, they would refuse. But if they were directed to start at 10 V, then proceed to 20 V—well, what's 10 V more? 30 V—what's another 10 V? And so on.
Self-justification is therefore the process by which we end up only seeking out evidence that confirms our previous beliefs or end up at a conclusion we should have rejected if we reasoned rationally from the get-go. Furthermore, to outsiders not afflicted by our self-justification, our irrational conclusions seem to come out of the blue. This discrepancy in conclusions, the authors suggest, was active in the slow foment of Iranian frustration leading up to the violence of the Iran hostage situation, which caught the US completely by surprise. The authors suggest both parties are to blame here: on one hand, the Iranians engaged in a cycle of self-justification until violence erupted; on the other, the US continually poked at Iran but self-justified by downplaying the magnitude of their insults. Either way, both parties found themselves in a situation they would not have initially expected, and, having stuck to their guns through all their incremental justifications, found it cognitively difficult to back down once crisis erupted.
Overall, while Tavris and Aronson take a fresh tack on two particular psychological phenomena, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, you can't do much better than to read the encyclopedia that is Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. Three stars.
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. :)
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.
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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Highly recommended this book to... Well, everyone!
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