Regular price: $31.93

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

To err is human. Yet most of us go through life assuming (and sometimes insisting) that we are right about nearly everything, from the origins of the universe to how to load the dishwasher. If being wrong is so natural, why are we all so bad at imagining that our beliefs could be mistaken, and why do we react to our errors with surprise, denial, defensiveness, and shame?

In Being Wrong, journalist Kathryn Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes relationships—whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations. Along the way, she takes us on a fascinating tour of human fallibility, from wrongful convictions to no-fault divorce; medical mistakes to misadventures at sea; failed prophecies to false memories; "I told you so!" to "Mistakes were made."

Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she proposes a new way of looking at wrongness. In this view, error is both a given and a gift—one that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves.

In the end, Being Wrong is not just an account of human error but a tribute to human creativity—the way we generate and revise our beliefs about ourselves and the world. At a moment when economic, political, and religious dogmatism increasingly divide us, Schulz explores with uncommon humor and eloquence the seduction of certainty and the crises occasioned by error. A brilliant debut from a new voice in nonfiction, this book calls on us to ask one of life's most challenging questions: what if I'm wrong?

©2010 Kathryn Schulz (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

“Engrossing.... In the spirit of Blink and Predictably Irrational (but with a large helping of erudition)... Schulz writes with such lucidity and wit that her philosophical enquiry becomes a page-turner.” ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    168
  • 4 Stars
    95
  • 3 Stars
    43
  • 2 Stars
    17
  • 1 Stars
    9

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    129
  • 4 Stars
    75
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    11
  • 1 Stars
    7

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    138
  • 4 Stars
    59
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    11
  • 1 Stars
    8
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A good read

I must start out by saying that I was prompted to write this review because the two reviews on the Audible website were quite negative. I am nearly halfway through this book and I am thoroughly enjoying it. For an audio book, though, it is a bit of a difficult “read” because of the depth that the author goes to in her discussion of the subject matter.

As mentioned by one of the other reviewers, the author cites numerous experts, authors, and studies in the book. When listening to a study that the author is describing to present a point, one must focus carefully on the details to fully understand and appreciate the implications of the study and how that fits into the larger argument that the author is presenting. I must admit that with this book I find myself rewinding and reviewing the material far more often than I have with other audio books to fully understand the ideas presented. In some respects, this book might be better read than listened to in order to easily comprehend the material. But, I find it difficult to read a book while I am doing aerobic exercises, walking the dog, or cleaning the house.

Despite the difficulties cited above, this is a book that I would certainly recommend to others. I find the organization of it to be logical and the author’s presentation to be coherent and interesting. If you are curious about how we think and come to what we believe is the truth and how we deal with errors, it is certainly worth a few minutes of your time. I should also note that the author is currently writing articles on matters related to the materials in the book in Slate (on the web) which I also enjoy.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome

My mantra since reading Being Wrong is "I may be wrong about this". Schulz is helping me embrace my inner mistake maker. Who knew that I'd learn more and be more effective if I simply said "I was wrong" - without trying to come up with reasons or explanations. This is a book with good ideas and a wonderful writer. The writing may be more revelatory than the ideas (and the narration of the audiobook is simply divine), but the ideas are pretty good. Making mistakes defines our humanity, and a tolerance for mistakes (in ourselves and others) is synonymous with maturity.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Very Thought Provoking

i had absolutely no complaints about the narration, it doesn't detract from the book or message at all.
The rest of the book, the actual content, was pretty insightful as well. A decent mix of anecdotal evidence, common sense, and research. i found the author to be occasionally a little wordy, but maybe she would have been repetitive if she hadn't been wordy (or maybe i'm just stupid and don't like new words). The organization and progression of the book was pretty good although there were a few times i found myself tuning out what seemed like random tangents. There were also a few sections that really struck me powerfully - stories that i could relate to very personally. i thought the author provided a great deal of interesting information and also implied encouragement to accept and recognize how often and easily we can be wrong. This could be me, but there were just a couple of places where it seemed like the author was taking a condescending attitude toward religion. i was puzzled by this, but it could've just been me reading that into it. All in all it didn't really detract from the many other excellent points that were addressed. Overall a pretty good book, i'd recommend it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Anyone who doesn't like this book is, well...wrong

I'd argue that people who downgrade this book just don't really want or need to know that much about the subject. I usually do fiction because I usually find this kind of thing boring but I had just told someone about Moonwalking with Einstein and he said I'd like this. He was right. It is thorough and well read and is very good at being what it is. I only do 5 stars for books I want to hear again right away.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting but too long and too abstract

The book is an interesting treatment of a subject that doesn't get enough attention. Schulz's research skills and erudition are formidable -- a quotable nugget can be found on almost every page. But the book drags in places, and the last couple of chapters were tough going. Schulz is best when she's telling stories, such as the incredible tale of the Millerite doomsday cult in 19th century America.

Another problem with the book is that it's too abstract and philosophical to be of much practical use. (To be fair, Schulz admits up front that she did not set out to write a self-help book on how to avoid error). Overall, I would recommend two other books over "Being Wrong". Check out, "Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us--and How to Know When not to Trust Them", by David Friedman; and "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts" by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Either of these (or both!) would be a better choice over Schulz's book.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Williamb
  • Fox Chapel, PA, United States
  • 09-25-10

Good Topic Disappointing Presentation

My expectations were high. This is a topic that I could sink my teeth (or ears) into. Why is everyone so committed to being wrong? People seem to become so happy with a position, an idea, an answer, that it no longer matters to them that the answer is wrong. Ayn Rand used the term "blank out" to describe the way people stop responding when they would have to concede a point or when they break a chain of reasoning to get to the answer they prefer.

Ms. Schultz certainly appreciates the many ways we humans arrive at the incorrect. She is well researched and of broad perspective. Her book includes psychological, biological, and neurological aspects of self deception. From a philosophical perspective, she points out that it is impossible to say truthfully that "I am wrong", because we can only realize that we were wrong by adopting a new idea different from the old, wrong idea. She quotes many great and some terrible thinkers on the subject of being wrong. The quotes are the best part of this book.

The frustrating aspect of this book is Ms. Schultz' organization of ideas. Just as a concept is being developed just to insert a distracting non sequitur. It gives the effect that she wants to make a point that has nothing to do with the concept that was being developed. I wait and listen patiently for the digression to end and the thoughts to be completed. Unfortunately, she doesn't return to the original thought - ever. Apparently, she feels obligated to begin her chapters on the topic, but feels no such obligation to conclude the chapter on the same topic.

In a paper book, we might be able to deal with the author's meandering by turning pages until we find the topic or a new topic to bridge the continuity on our own. In an audio book, we lack the resources to compensate for her inconsistencies. It becomes maddening to encounter the unclosed loops, unjustified digressions, repeatedly.

I listen to approximately ten audio books per month.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Better than McRaney's You Are Not So Smart

This book focused on many of the heuristics detailed in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. Like David McRaney, in his book You Are Not So Smart, Schulz is a bit more relatable than Kahneman, which makes the study of heuristics (fallible thinking), easier to digest. Unlike McRaney, Schulz does a much better job of making arguments that do not fall prey to the very heuristics being argued against. She got tripped up a few times, in that her argument for one thing could just as easily have been used to argue for the opposite position. Despite her succumbing a few times to obvious heuristics, this book was considerably better quality than Raney's You Are Not So Smart.

One of my favorite things about it was her unapologetic argument for the value of heuristics. At the end of the day, Schulz views the brain as a probability machine. Instead of the brain being a stupid fallible organ, Schulz sees it as brilliant and right much of the time, and accepts that a percent of the time, it will get things wrong. The wrongness arises not from the fallibility of the brain, but from its absolutely brilliant strategy of calculating the probabilities. I fear I made this part of her argument sound slightly boring. It was not. This argument in particular was the highlight of the book. I probably would have given it 5 stars if not for the last chapter. I felt slightly annoyed, like it was a bit preachy. But, I am not certain if it really was. It might have been a bad fit for me, but could be a great way to end the book for other readers.

No matter how much I liked this book, no book on heuristics could be better than Tarvis' Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me. I looked up Tarvis and it appears that she might even be a self help type of writer. This is shocking to me because I loath self help books, unless they have actual studies to back up their claims and those studies have robust methods. For me, most self-help books are the new snake oil. But Tarvis' book was not simply one of the best books I have read on fallible thinking but one of the best books I have ever read period. Somehow she avoids, more so than Schulz and significantly more so than McRaney, tripping over the very fallibility she argues against. To me, that is quite impressive. So, Schulz's book was really good, but not up to par with Travis. If I were to rank books on decision making, the order would be as follows:

1. Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow (it is the seminal work and has myriad studies but a tiny bit dry at times)
2. Tarvis' Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me (the writing was fantastic and every page causes the self reflective reader a mini existential crisis)
3. Being Wrong by Schulz
4. I feel certain there are many books I have not read that are better than the next choice
N. McRaney's You Are Not So Smart.

If you are only going to read one book, make it Tarvis' Mistakes were Made. If you are willing to read more than one book (because, let's face it, your brains is super interesting and probably a bit narcissistic and would love it if you gave it multiple books to read about itself), then I highly recommend Schulz book as well.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Juan
  • New Orleans, LA, United States
  • 04-30-13

Amazing philosphy course? Great mind expander

Would you consider the audio edition of Being Wrong to be better than the print version?

Not because I wanted to, but because I went to a liberal arts school, I had to take theology and philosophy. In the end, I found epistemology, and the other ones I took interesting looking back.

HOWEVER, this book about wrongness makes me feel more "right" than all of those professors together. It just adds a different perspective on knowledge and our every day life. Although a book about wrongness and being wrong, it is amazingly uplifting. Read it. you will enjoy.

What did you like best about this story?

Without giving away the ending (yes it has an ending) it is a mind expanding perspective on reality.

What does Mia Barron bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She has a voice similar to the author (who I have seen on a TED talk) and the way she dryly reads the humorous portions and references makes the book so much better than if I had read it.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Left me amazed. It is the point of the book

Any additional comments?

Nope.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fun, Thorough, Insightful, Great Narration

What an incredible combination of content and narration! As a psychologist who is heavily involved in this subject I never found the author diluting the material or 'talking down' to the reader. Even though she is a non-scientist, Ms. Schulz knows her stuff as well or better than any 'expert' I have read or listened to. I love the humor integrated with the depth of this book. The narration was a pleasure to listen to. This is a book for anyone, lay person or professional who would like to spend a number of hours being entertained, challenged and enlightened about a crucial subject that impacts us on both personal and societal levels.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Scott
  • Guelph, ON, Canada
  • 04-27-12

How human perception affects truth

Human perception has always been a fascination of mine. This book is particularly interesting in showing us how misperception happens. What we think is true and real is generally a flawed opinion based on imperfect sensory perception and fallible brain functions. Even when we are totally convinced we are right, we really may be wrong. This book explains how that happens.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful