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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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  •  
    Anand BALTIMORE, MD, United States 11-11-12
    Anand BALTIMORE, MD, United States 11-11-12 Member Since 2012
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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

    40 of 41 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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...

    38 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yoshida 12-07-13
    A. Yoshida 12-07-13
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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.

    27 of 29 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 2002
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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'.

    30 of 33 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.

    22 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin N Saffer 08-21-10 Member Since 2011
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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.

    34 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Russell Keswick, ON, Canada 07-18-15
    Russell Keswick, ON, Canada 07-18-15 Member Since 2015
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    "We All Make Mistakes It's How We Handle Them After"

    This book helped me back away from an argument where someone needed to justify their actions. I realized they were emotionally invested in what they did and a logical discussion of it was going to be rejected. It saved me some frustration and that was okay because the episode was a minor one. If that was all I took from this book then it would have failed.

    The key is (But Not By Me). We really need to examine how we can convince ourselves our bad decision was a good one when actually it wasn't. We are predisposed to rationalize our actions and sometimes this hurts others and more importantly sometimes this hurts ourselves.

    I rarely stop listening to a book on a long walk, but for this one after a chapter that inspired a eureka moment I had to. It wouldn't do to hear the next chapter when I needed to work out some things inspired by what I had just heard.

    I liked the scientific approach in discussing how mistakes were made and the part that resonated the most was the repressed memory fad in the 1990's. A lot of people were harmed by that and a lot of experts who did not adhere to the scientific method compounded that damage. I was most impressed with the one repressed memory expert who parted company with her contemporaries and admitted mistakes. After reading this book, I want to emulate that courageous lady.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine J. Pondozzi Laurel, Maryland 11-04-12
    Catherine J. Pondozzi Laurel, Maryland 11-04-12 Member Since 2013

    I am someone who enjoys audible books very much now that they exist. As a young student (real young) I can remember a teacher telling me how books can transport people to different places & open up a whole new world. This is how listening to audible books make me feel. Now if I can just stop falling asleep while listening to them at night I would be fine. Ha ha

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    "This book is priecless for saving time & energy"

    Although this book reads like a pschological text book it is no less facsinating in scope. It explains the phenomena of justifying ones actions in such a way that will free up a person from wasting their time arguing with others & give a real insight into why this happens to just about everyone. Like pshycholigist know so well, much of what we do is based on learned information. Having this kind of insight can only be of the highest help in dealing with others & with ourselves too. Praise, praise, praise for the educational value this book gives.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 10-06-12
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 10-06-12 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "No Mistake buying this Audio"

    This book has a very interesting premise: that most of the problems we face in life are because we do not accept responsibility for our actions. People spend a great deal of time engaged in self-justification for hurtful actions.

    One of the primary examples is what happened with the pre-school sex abuse scandals in the 90's. One of the most infamous started with accusations by a woman whom, it was later discovered, was mentally ill. Other parents at the school believed her, and children recounted improbable stories of abuse at the urging and direction of therapists and law enforcement.

    "Mistakes Were Made" discusses the falibility of memory, and source confusion. In the example of the children making the accusations, leading questions became facts for the children. The same type of source confusion happens to adults.

    When the therapists and law enforcement investigated the alleged abuse, they failed to notice that the children's stories were improbable. The investigators self-justified their failure to correlate the facts, and so many lives were ruined.

    There is an extensive discussion of cognitive disonance, which is worth an entire book on its own. False memories are sometimes created to resolve cognitive disonance.

    I did question the concept of "self-justification" as it applies to organizations, such as companies and countries. The authors treated those groups as if the groups were an individual entity. I didn't see any support for the position that a group somehow develops a consciousness and works to reduce cognitive disonance.

    The performance was good. It's the first Audible Book I have listened to with two narrators that worked well.

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 04-17-12
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 04-17-12

    "... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^

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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.

    28 of 35 people found this review helpful
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  • Eoin
    6/18/15
    Overall
    "essential reading for humans"

    In here somewhere is accountability and forgiveness occupying the same space. Informative and enlightening by any standard.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 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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