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

By Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Synopsis: 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.

Published: May 2007 | ISBN-13: 978-0156033909

Mini-bio: Carol Tavris is an American social psychologist, feminist and skeptic. She is an author with works exploring the themes of critical thinking, feminism and criticism of pseudoscience. Wikipedia

Mini-bio: Elliot Aronson is an American psychologist. He is listed among the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th Century and is best known for the invention of the Jigsaw Classroom as a method of reducing interethnic hostility and prejudice. Wikipedia

We’ve all met people who, no matter how much evidence is presented that contradicts their world view will refuse to change their mind. Most people, in fact, double-down on their beliefs when directly challenged. Mistakes Were Made looks at the vaccinations, WMDs, criminal investigations and lots of other examples that show how cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and false memories lead to self-justification. It’s a great book for learning not only how our own thought patterns can be limiting us, but also for understanding why other people believe the things they do even when they’re shown to be clearly wrong. – Ed Brown from 10 Great Books on Skepticism and Stuff

Interview with Carol Tavris

The Guardian Book Review
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Book Review
BlogCritics Book Review
Skeptical Observations Book Review

[Image Credit: http://corkskeptics.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/screen-shot-2012-07-15-at-23-32-46.png?w=820 ]


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