Albert'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
Sep 28, 2011

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bookshelves: nonfiction, psychology
Read from September 25 to October 02, 2011

Before reading this book, I had been aware of the ideas of cognitive dissonance and self-justification, having encountered them in some day-to-day personal interactions, mostly related to money. (“X is good, and I want it, but I don’t want to spend so much money on X… therefore, X is no good and I don’t want it!”)

This book studies dissonance in larger real-world situations where the stakes are much higher. Through examples about corrupt politicians, false memories, police interrogations, and others, we see how powerful a force cognitive dissonance can be. The more wrong you are about something, the harder you’ll try to convince yourself that you’re not wrong. This leads to decisions that can harm many people.

This was an enlightening read, but disturbing at the same time. I came away from it with a hopeless feeling. There don’t seem to be any solutions for the problem other than people realizing and admitting to their mistakes, but if self-justification is so ingrained in our minds, how would this actually happen? I don’t know.

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