Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)

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


My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I went into this book hoping to learn what I can do for myself, to avoid self-justifying behavior and instead to be open-minded and accept being wrong. But as was made clear early on, we don't identify self-justifying behavior in ourselves, only in other people. The bulk of the book tells how politicians, lawyers, detectives, physicians, psychiatrists, and scientists get trapped by self-justification: Once they make a decision to believe one thing over another, their attitudes and actions are shaped to reinforce the idea that that decision was the right one to make.

So going into this as a scientist, I was hoping the book would tell me how to avoid this. The last chapter instead mostly tells how to deal with this problem when you observe it in other people. That's all well and good, but I want to know if I've done it myself, and put a stop to it. But I can't think of any instances when I've been wrong and afraid to admit it. I just got finished reading this book about how people make colossal mistakes, and I come out of it thinking, "but it wasn't me."

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