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Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson

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.

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Recommendations: 2

Categories: Health & WellnessPsychology & Mental Health

Reading time: 1011 hours


Peter Attia

Probably, Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me. [It] is a book about cognitive dissonance, and it’s one of the few books that at the moment I finished it I not only reread it but I bought it for about ten people. I think that the authors, one of whom I’ve become very close friends with and she is now actually an advisor to NuSI as well, her name is Carol Tavris. One of the things the authors do such a great job of is really getting at the psychology of why it is that we are simply not wired to acknowledge mistakes when we make them, look for weaknesses in our thinking.

And I just think that, you know, how do I make sure I go through life without becoming too sure of myself? Because on some levels I am sure of myself, but at other levels I have to realize, like, what can I do to make sure I’m not missing something that could allow me to do a better job? And so I think it’s a fantastic book.

Adam Grant
Psychologist and Author

So to your question, what have I gifted the most? I’ve got a few favorites. I think I tend to gift mostly in the genre that I write in. So thinking about big ideas that are evidence based that can improve the way we work and live. Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) is a favorite. I’m sure you know that, by Tavris and Aronson, a great book on why our egos get in the way of just about everything and how to overcome that.