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

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  9,396 ratings  ·  476 reviews
Traditional Chinese edition of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. In Chinese. Distributed by Tsai Fong Books, Inc.
Paperback, 292 pages
Published 2008 by Pinter & Martin (first published 2007)
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Trevor
Jun 09, 2009 Trevor rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trevor by: David Giltinan
I found this a remarkably challenging book to read. There was a time when I thought psychology was an odd sort of discipline. As someone who had studied physics for a while I couldn’t really bring myself to call it a science and as someone who studied philosophy I also felt it had failings on that score too. My understanding of psychology was fairly limited, but Freudian, Jungian, Behaviourist and god knows what other –isms all seemed to me to depend too much on a foundation that seemed much too ...more
Mara
"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls." - C.G. Jung

"Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin." - Barbara Kingsolver

Neither of the quotes above were included in this book, but they speak to some of the ideas at its core. Anyone who has any social psychology, experimental methods course, and/or paid cursory attention to the bevy of material out there about how the human mind and we, as people, work, will find a lot of famili
...more
Tami
Sometimes, I think that the world is full of hypocrites. The news is full of politicians who preach family values and then are caught in an affair. Everyday we see religious advocates who call for peace and in the same breath state that their God is the only true God. Then, there's the business world where lying and cheating seem to be part of the game.

Sometimes, I wonder how these people live with themselves.

Mistake Were Made (but not by me) addresses that exact question. It would seem that t
...more
Alyssa
Ultimately, I think that Tavris's conclusions about self-justification are probably correct, but her argument was flawed. There were a number of things that put me off from this book. Here's my list of gripes:

1) The book relied much too heavily on anecdotal evidence to prove its points. Tavris did back up her claims about self-justification with some psychological research (that sounded like it was peer-reviewed, I guess), but it was pretty sparse (like 1 study per chapter if that---as opposed t
...more
N
Jan 02, 2008 N rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is easily one of my favorite non-fiction books.

When I picked it up, I had only a basic knowledge of cognitive dissonance. I'm so glad that this is the first in-depth book on the topic I read.

For one thing, it is wonderfully written. It's engaging, clear, and funny. It uses countless real life examples, both actual events and generalizations, that make it clear exactly how cognitive dissonance enters into play everywhere. The best part was they would always address how it plays out for all s
...more
Ryan
Jun 27, 2008 Ryan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ryan by: class text
This is yet another wonderful book written by social psychologists, although it is probably unlikely to make the New York Times best seller list for a couple of reasons. First, this book ranks right up there with Jimmy Carter’s famed “Great Malaise” speech that pointed an accusing finger at the American people for all of their problems. No one wants to know that WE are the cause of the problem, just like no one really wants to know that I made a mistake, not someone else. This book is about cogn ...more
David
As someone interested in the psychology of religion, it's always interesting to me how cognitive weaknesses play a role in establishing and maintaining religious beliefs. Some atheists are wont to believe that religion is a kind of mental illness, but this book (and others) make it clear that's really not so. The vast majority of religious people are cognitively normal. It's just that normal human cognition is very prone to making certain kinds of errors, and religious memes propagate very easil ...more
K
Four words:

Cognitive dissonance
Confirmation bias

According to the authors, therein lies the explanation for people's unwillingness to admit mistakes, even to themselves, in a variety of realms. This far-reaching book tackles irrational prejudices, false memories, misjudgement as a psychotherapist, prosecuting the wrong individual, blaming one's spouse for marital problems, etc. And it offers a basic explanation: we have a difficult time integrating two conflicting beliefs, such as "I'm a great pe
...more
Matthew
I've been a longtime fan of both authors (especially Tavris), so my expectations were pleasantly met. Most of it, of course, is hammering away at how the fundamental attribution error influences relationships between couples, coworkers, or nations. They reframe the psychobabble as "self-justification" as the root of these conflicts and ongoing interpersonal difficulties. Their citations of clinical works also brings up the interesting possibility that mindfulness-based interventions may be most ...more
Eric Phillips
A highly engaging discussion on how people use self-justification to avoid admitting they've made a mistake or hurt someone or otherwise deal with the "cognitive dissonance" we encounter when one of our cherished beliefs runs aground on the rock of cold, hard reality. The one quibble I would have is the division the authors make of the world into "perpetrators" and "victims" -- a language that masks the real complexity of certain relationships and interactions in which both parties are one and t ...more
Annie
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
...more
Piezocuttlefish
May 27, 2008 Piezocuttlefish rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who's made a mistake
Mistakes Were Made is a tour through the different ways in which cognitive dissonance motivates otherwise normal, good people to do wretched things. Making such stops as the tragedies of recovering so-called repressed memories, the unfortunate bias of the parts of the legal system which are immune to criticism, and growing disparities of perception between perpetrators and victims, Mistakes Were Made also highlights many other scientific and psychological tidbits. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aron ...more
Melody
Fascinating and eye-opening analysis of cognitive dissonance and the steps we take to reduce the dissonance. Politicians are the easy targets, and exploited here as such, but Tavris & Aronson also delve into personal stories. Several of them held up a mirror to my own self-justifications and made me flinch. Riveting and insightful. Recommended.
Stefanos
Jun 05, 2014 Stefanos rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stefanos by: Trevor
Shelves: science
I wonder why this book isn’t on top of a ‘the most disturbing books’ list!It’s the kind of book that makes you feel safer while fully naked and unarmed in the woods instead of our over-complicated society full of self-delusional phonies.Who to trust?How to even trust ourselves?Still,i decided to stay because i realised that in a forest i would deprive of the basic needs of Maslow's pyramid,books,music and internet.It’s the updated 2.0 edition,didn’t you know?The exaggeration is obvious but i sti ...more
Camie
I should start by saying I find social psychology fascinating! This book is about cognitive dissonance , which basically means having two conflicting beliefs and the measures we will resort to in order to defend and justify our beliefs , decisions, and actions. Backed by much research, this very insightful book explains how we all are capable of self deception, why we do it, why it is harmful, and how to overcome the very human mechanism of justifying our foolish beliefs, improper actions, poor ...more
Morgan Blackledge
OMFG. This book is relentless. Reading it is an ordeal. A wonderful, fruitful ordeal. But an ordeal none the less. Every page and chapter has been an opportunity for self examination and (I hope) enhanced self honesty, insight and personal growth.

And just in case that sounds to woo woo for you. It should be noted that the assertions made in the book are backed by decades worth of hard, experimentally derived evidence.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Both authors are respected researchers in
...more
Kathy
Sep 20, 2010 Kathy rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Kathy by: book club
Shelves: 2010-reads
Although the authors have some good points about self-justification in a few sections of the book, they clearly spend way too much time on the "problem" and their political biases than a plausible solution to overcoming self-justification. I read the last page of the book in complete disgust as to the topic they chose to end with and completely irritated that very few solutions were offered to help minimize self-justification in ourselves as well as others. I guess I should have read the title a ...more
Adam
This was by far the best book I have read in quite a few years. Highly recommended. It was so informative and engaging that I think I wore out my welcome reading it out loud to anyone who was nearby.

Written by two social psychologists and based on years of research, it provides a fascinating overview of cognitive dissonance, and how it applies to prejudice, memory, law, marriage, and war. The most chilling aspect of the book is that it points out how we all are subject to dealing with dissonance
...more
Tucker
The authors describe a "dissonance theory" of self-justification. We don't like thinking of ourselves as ignorant or ill-intentioned, so to avoid this dissonance, we try to convince ourselves and others that we are doing the right thing. We may justify to protect our high self-esteem or even our low self-esteem, if that is our default state that we are reluctant to leave.

Justification of incorrect beliefs or forbidden actions is easy when it is done incrementally, what we often call a "slippery
...more
Tim Kadlec
The book was full of good information, and good discussions around cognitive dissonance. It's fault, however, was that the anecdotes tended to be very politically charged, and very biased.

Unfortunately, the authors bias came through very strongly in several of the examples used, and this distracts from the points the authors are attempting to make. In addition, a few of the examples felt like they didn't really fit in with the subject matter, and were instead used to continue to justify the auth
...more
Mark
Having been put off by several popular books by social psychologists I read in recent years which I felt failed to deliver on the promised goods ("Emotional Intelligence" and "Social Intelligence," both by Daniel Goldman come quickly to mind), I was both relieved and impressed as I listened to the audiobook version of "Mistakes Were Made."

The authors not only convincingly support and develop their thesis from start to finish, they do so in an entertaining fashion. Furthermore, the book offers pl
...more
Godfrey Mangenje
I my quest to research stress I came across a psychology site that supported the thesis of the the book. This may be one of those books, as simple as it may be, that has a profound message. Pertaining to stress, my original research, cognitive dissonance causes people discomfort when reality contradicts personals beliefs and values especially when those people identify personally with the beliefs and values. Because "if what I believe is an extension of who I am and reality is contradicting that ...more
Geoff Ball
This book attempts to explain and provide an answer to the question, "how do you sleep at night?" Despite everything we do—even when it is at odds with our beliefs—cognitive dissonance allows us to say, "very well, thank you." As the authors write, "without self-justification, we might be left standing emotionally naked, unprotected, in a pool of regrets and losses." Although cognitive dissonance allows us to tell ourselves that we're decent human beings, it can lead to great contempt and embarr ...more
Michael Foley
I really enjoyed this book. It caused me a lot of introspection and I've been more able to catch when I'm lying to myself to feel better about my bad decisions when I really have no reason to. We all do it. Buyers' remorse, re-telling a breakup, justifying our behavior after we've hurt someone. The list goes on and on and I LOVE this book for putting me in my place.

It tackles how unreliable our memories are, How memory repression therapy is flawed at best, how corruption is easier than we think,
...more
Manal Saad
This book is an eyeopener of how people justify their mistakes and how they end up making them without realizing so. It gave examples of how people can easily lose their ethical campus due to self-justification and cognitive-dissonance.

The book gave examples of mistakes made by people from different walks of life such as psychiatrists who believed the validity of a recovered memory; physicians and judges who think they are above conflict of interests; police officers who are confident with thei
...more
Steven Peterson
This is a well written, snappy book that addresses an important issue, best described by the book's title and subtitle: "Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts."

The two authors, both well reputed psychologists, use the theory of cognitive dissonance as their starting point. Leon Festinger was one of the major theorists of this approach. The authors of this book simply define the perspective thus (page 13): "Cognitive dissonance is a s
...more
Kellie
You might like this book if you want to consider your own tendencies when you make mistakes or you are interested in learning more about the concepts of self-justification and cognitive dissonance and how these affect both the lives of individuals and society.


This was not an easy book to read (listen to), but not because of difficult language or complicated concepts. In fact, the authors did a great job of explaining their thesis in clear terms, without psychobabble and without a sense of arroga
...more
Adelle
The authors' political biases came through as they used the beginning and the ending of the book to castigate then (2007) President George W. Bush, and to call Newt Gingrich a “hypocrite” for criticizing (now former) President Bill Clinton’s sexual affair…WITHOUT any allusion to Clinton’s defensive “I did not have sex with that woman…Miss Lewinski” statement.

But most of the center sections of the book--which thankfully were relatively free of politics--- I found endlessly fascinating. Oh, how t
...more
Rebekka Steg
This week I've been reading Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Actsby Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, an absolutely amazing book, which everyone should be acquired to read.

The book deals with the issue of self-justification, and the role it plays in all of our lives, from such "minor" issues as arguments within a relationship, to bullying,prejudicialness, torture, fraud etc.

Written by two psychologist, the book is backed by research as
...more
Sergei Moska
Although this book didn't actually teach me anything new in terms of theory (but did provide me with many details of practical cases), it nonetheless surprised me. First, I decided to read this book at this time because I've been a bit burned out from dense reading and wanted something useful but light. It was in fact both these things, but it was also far, far more depressing than I had expected. I expected this to be a “Ha ha, let's look at our foibles!” type of read. No, it's more of a “your ...more
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Denial and Population 1 2 Dec 17, 2014 10:14AM  
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  • 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior
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  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
  • The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making
  • Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious
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Carol Tavris earned her Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary program in social psychology at the University of Michigan, and ever since has sought to bring research from the many fields of psychology to the public. She is author of The Mismeasure of Woman, which won the Distinguished Media Contribution Award from the American Association from Applied and Preventive Psychology, and the Heritage Publicati ...more
More about Carol Tavris...
Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion Psychology in Perspective Psychobabble and Biobunk: Using Psychology to Think Critically about Issues in the News The Longest War: Sex Differences in Perspective

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