Book's Reviews > Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris
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Jun 24, 11

bookshelves: neuroscience
Read in March, 2011

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

"Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)" is an interesting book about how the brain is wired for self-justification. Social psychologists Tavris and Aronson take us through a psychological ride of how we deal with cognitive dissonance. This 304-page is composed of the following eight chapters: 1. Cognitive Dissonance: The Engine of Self-justification, 2. Pride and Prejudice...and Other Blind Spots, 3. Memory, the Self-justifying Historian, 4. Good Intentions, Bad Science: The Closed Loop of Clinical Judgment, 5. Law and Disorder, 6. Love's Assassin: Self justification in Marriage, 7. Wounds, Rifts, and Wars, and 8. Letting Go and Owning Up.

Positives:

1. Excellent, accessible and conversational prose.
2. Fascinating subject topic and a book that lived up to the expectations.
3. The power of self-justification illustrated with a luxury of compelling details.
4. Great water-fountain stories that support their arguments.
5. Great quotes spruced throughout the book.
6. Confirmation bias explained.
7. How our brains react to dissonant information, fascinating stuff. Dissonance theory explained.
8. Some interesting personal convictions have been debunked and that alone is worth the price of the book.
9. Personal experiences can be so misleading.
10. Interesting examples including many political ones.
11. Tidbits of wisdom in even strange areas. Consider the impact of pharmaceutical deregulation...you will from this book.
12. Good use of science, always a positive.
13. The power of the gift...you must reciprocate.
14. The difficulty in dropping prejudice.
15. Memories as self-justifying historians.
16. Fascinating facts.
17. The terrible accounts of the recovered-memory movement.
18. Absolutely loved the Law and Disorder chapter. DNA is amazing...
19. The fascinating and "painful" look at marriage.
20. The interesting look at how to help victim find closure.
21. Interesting take on torture.
22. Christian penance has a totally different connotation.
23. Mandela.
24. So many great examples...from Oprah, the Crusades, the Bay of Pigs, etc...
25. The power of accepting responsibility.
26. Extensive bibliography, that's always good.
27. A treat to read from cover to cover.

Negatives:

1. Conservatives may find this book to be biased toward liberals.
2. Can be "preachy" at times.

In summary, I truly enjoyed this book. This is a book that lived up to the hype. It's fascinating, interesting and memorable. I can't recommend it enough.
Further recommendations: "Supersense" by Bruce M. Hood, "Hardwired Behavior..." by Laurence Tancredi, "The Belief Instinct..." by Jesse Bering, and "Human" by Michael S. Gazzaniga
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