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

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

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-deception.
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Publisher's Summary

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-deception - how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.

©2008 Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"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." (Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine)

"By turns entertaining, illuminating and—when you recognize yourself in the stories it tells—mortifying." (The Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Andrew Homer Glen, IL, United States 10-22-10
    Andrew Homer Glen, IL, United States 10-22-10 Member Since 2010

    I'm a diverse individual with a Masters in both Theology and Computer Science, a fellow traveler and explorer going after all the marrow I can get out of life!

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    "Insightful study of human behavior"

    The book is a bit dry, but knowledge is not always entertaining. It's a bit complex, so unlike the human being... It is definitely a worthwhile read and is credible science, unlike most of the over-simplified dribble that is presented as science today. One must approach this book with an open mind, a love for psychology, and strive to better understand the complex human condition -- one's own condition. If you harp on the details of who the authors picked as examples, you've missed the point. If you are looking for a political slant, bashing of belief in UFOs (of the intergalactic kind), or even probably religion, (since you are looking) you will find it. We are all creatures of our time, we have dispositions, views, and preferences. This book, if you read it not looking for your own agenda, is an excelling insight into how we make decisions and live with (and explain away) their convergences. I myself am guilty... oh and BTW: this download is only part I, can't seem to find part II...

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Castro Valley, CA, United States 09-05-10
    Robert Castro Valley, CA, United States 09-05-10 Member Since 2000
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    "A Great Listen - As Long As You Listen"

    A fascinating discussion of cognitive dissonanance, something that affects every single one of us; not only the people we disagree with. I'm sure that this book will confirm your prejudices if listened to casually but if listened to with as an open a mind as you can muster it will cause you to begin to re-evaluate your own memories, beliefs and relationship with the 'truth'. A wonderful opportunity to 'look in the mirror'.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Stein Edmonton, AB 06-07-12
    Paula Stein Edmonton, AB 06-07-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Trying to Understand Why People Do What They Do?"

    I'm sure none of us think that we indulge in self-justification to the point that we lie to ourselves unconsciously. But it seems we do. It's important, if we are striving to be more considerate of others and striving to be more compassionate with ourselves, to live consciously. This book helps us to be more aware of the stories we tell ourselves to justify bad behaviour as well as honest mistakes.
    The authors extend their ideas and research to politics and how generally honest people find themselves in huge conflicts of interest; and science, where those conflicts of interest can cost people their lives and health; and nations, where quarrels are endless and bloody and whole masses of people can be manipulated into supporting wrong-headed, destructive and even illegal policies; and personally, where self-justification can destroy relationships.
    The knowledge presented in this book is very helpful for those who wish to try and be more aware of the tricks our consciousness plays in the effort to maintain self-esteem at all costs.
    I intend to listen to this book over and over again.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Rogers 02-01-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Psychology book with practical advice"

    I was disappointed it was extremely similar to the Social Animal which I had already read and that it didn't go into as much scientific detail as the Social Animal (I can be real nerdy-most people will probably prefer this version to the textbook The Social Animal). But despite these small dislikes I was very impressed with information and particularly the fact the book gave practical advice about to apply the book's concepts to everyday life.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin N Saffer 08-21-10 Member Since 2006
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    "Great Book"

    I am facinitated about how the human mind works and how we make decisions in our daily lives. In my opinion this book is one of the best out there for exploring how the mind works and how people can arrive in a position contrary to their initial core beliefs over time.

    26 of 30 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yoshida Pasadena, CA USA 12-07-13
    A. Yoshida Pasadena, CA USA 12-07-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Everyone makes mistakes"

    The title of the book gives the impression that it's a self-help book. It's more of a psychology book explaining how people can make mistakes, think they are right, and honestly believe that. A good example is false memories. How often have you said, "I could have sworn I did that." You see the event in your head, yet evidence shows it didn't happen. You rationalize it ("someone must have moved it") instead of accept the most obvious answer ("I was mistaken in thinking that I did it").

    The books goes even further into big mistakes that people make and refuse to admit, such as in the criminal system where suspects are locked away for years ("I know he's the rapist so I'll interrogate him for hours until he finally confesses") until DNA finally proves their innocence. Fortunately for most people, they are not making mistakes that means life and death. The book contains many extreme examples. Still, this is great book to read to understand and recognize your own mistakes. For example, maybe a friend asked for a favor and you said no. Initially you felt a little guilty for saying no. Then you start justifying the answer, "She wouldn't have helped me if I had asked for a favor. She's always looking for someone to do her work." So that guilty feeling goes away. It's a rude awakening to realize how your feelings have completely changed -- you went from feeling a little guilty to thinking your friend is selfish and lazy.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 04-17-12
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 04-17-12 Member Since 2011

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

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    "A BIT too Oprah-centric"

    A bit uneven and towards the end a bit too Oprah-centric. Felt like the book drifted from a scientific/psychological work to a clinical/self-help piece (a rational, scientifically grounded self-help book, but still one regardless). It was interesting, but sadly disappointing too.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anand BALTIMORE, MD, United States 11-11-12
    Anand BALTIMORE, MD, United States 11-11-12
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    "Excellent insights, but a little too long"

    This book has a lot to offer. I feel that many things will be better in the world if people were aware of what the book says. That being said, I feel that the book could have been shortened and some of the later chapters could be omitted. Also, the book started off on solid ground with all claims being backed by experiments, but later made some far-fetched claims where the authors didn't hold up to the high standards of proof they setup up in the early chapters.

    The first 3 chapters were excellent. The authors clearly explain how self-justification works and lay out cognitive dissonance theory. In chapter 3, they go in-depth into how memories can be wrong and how they play into what we want to believe. This was quite a revelation to me how ordinary people could be so wrong about what they remember. I would now be more careful when recalling old memories. They use the pyramid analogy very well in explaining how opinions form and how they harden as you justify them and base more decisions on them, and why it is a good idea not to be too fixed on any opinion or ideology.

    The fourth chapter was a good listen. The authors discuss how "recovered memories" proved wrong and how social workers and clinicians with good intentions ended up causing people to "remember" childhood abuse, leading to false accusations and broken families. The authors explain what constitutes proper science, and how individuals, professionals and experts can be completely wrong about something because they haven't examined it critically or scientifically. They give an example of psychotherapy and how psychology clinicians (not scientists) have often caused more harm than good to their patients. Self-justification comes in the way of making people correct themselves, therefore causing more harm. The fifth chapter is about wrongful convictions, and how prosecutors deal with the dissonance of being wrong and sending innocent people to jail. Self-justification comes into play here too. "I sent someone to jail. Therefore, he must be guilty"

    In my opinion, chapter 6 made too strong a claim - Relationships and marriages are ruined by self-justification - without proper backup. The authors don't examine whether self-justification is a cause or merely a symptom of a troubled marriage. It did bother me that for all the talk about doing proper science, the authors throw all of that to the wind and expound on their opinions in this chapter. Chapter 7 talks about larger issues such as conflicts between nations and groups. Although it was interesting information, I am not sure whether it should have been included in this book. Again, this chapter was far from scientific, and only offers the example of post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa as to how things can be done differently.

    Finally, chapter 8 was meant to give practical advice. They do talk about how, in America, people don't own up to mistakes because they are afraid to look stupid. To me, apart from that, it was a lot of preaching, exhorting the reader/listener to own up to his/her mistakes. Personally, as someone who has a tendency to justify my actions, I felt this was a black-white approach, without looking at the grey area. For instance, there are two negative consequences of self-justification - 1) you make a bad situation worse by not being amenable to change (continuing to pour money into a bad investment, continuing to hurt somebody). 2) You don't mend relationships or come clean to yourself and others. If you admit your mistake to yourself (without saying it to others or in public), you at least fix problem 1, which is the more important problem in my opinion.

    If you are considering this book, you will likely enjoy it. Nevertheless, be prepared to be taken out of your comfort zone, and exposed to common failings you are likely making. I haven't read any similar books and can't comment on what is new or different in this book

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 01-27-12
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 01-27-12 Member Since 2010

    Miss Construed

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    "An insightful, if sometimes uncomfortable, read."

    As you progress through the book you will begin to recognize and understand some of the more difficult to fathom behaviors in others and ourselves.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Molly-o Seattle 02-08-13
    Molly-o Seattle 02-08-13

    English major. Love to read

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    "A timely and important read"

    I am not sure why I downloaded this as I wasn't expecting to like it -- which isn't like me. Nonetheless, I started and I found it very illuminating. The authors spend a tad too much time with the lack of evidence in the sexual abuse scandals in the last 10 years, but I forgive them. They point up a tendency that is like finding a new lens through which to see life and how we all conduct ourselves. I have found myself just saying that I made a mistake rather than always couching it in a context - that's a change! So, it's not long, it's insightful and well read. That's a good read, isn't it?

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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  • B. Eveleigh
    UK
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "A fascinating insight"

    This book helps shed a light on some of the often strange decisions we make but mainly why we usually struggle to admit that we actually make mistakes. There are a number of interesting examples of people who have and have not admitted their mistakes and the profound impact those decisions make on their own lives and the lives of those around them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nigel
    Reading, United Kingdom
    9/16/11
    Overall
    "No mistake was made buying this book"

    One of the best books on psychology I've ever heard. Fascinating, illuminating, funny and useful throughout

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Loughton, United Kingdom
    9/5/11
    Overall
    "Fascinating stuff"

    An interesting and absorbing study how people justify themselves every turn of the road. One study was a married couple approaching a split and how they denigrate their partner's actions and justify their own thereby becoming increasingly polarised into a black and white argument on who's right and wrong.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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