Ryan'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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's review
Jun 27, 2008

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bookshelves: non-fiction, politics, psychology, owned-books
Recommended to Ryan by: class text
Read in April, 2008

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 cognitive dissonance and the power of rationalization in many domains of life. The problem with this topic (as I have found after many quarters of teaching it to college students), is that even after learning the concept, literally no one likes to think that they actually engage in these mental gymnastics. Biases in perception, even the automatic activation of stereotypes are easier to get people to believe than trying to show them how every decision or experience we have is colored by the process of making ourselves appear consistent. In reality, we are all highly hypocritical in countless ways, but as the authors show over and over again, this is much easier to detect in others than in ourselves. Only suggestion I would make is to try to use more examples from across the political spectrum to arrest any rationalization ammo for critics of the book. Would recommend to everyone (along with Aronson’s other books).
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