Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

  • by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson
  • Narrated by Marsha Mercant, Joe Barrett
  • 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell? Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception - how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.

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What the Critics Say

"Thanks, in part, to the scientific evidence it provides and the charm of its down-to-earth, commonsensical tone, Mistakes Were Made is convincing. Reading it, we recognize the behavior of our leaders, our loved ones, and—if we're honest—ourselves, and some of the more perplexing mysteries of human nature begin to seem a little clearer." (Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine)
"By turns entertaining, illuminating and—when you recognize yourself in the stories it tells—mortifying." (The Wall Street Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent insights, but a little too long

This book has a lot to offer. I feel that many things will be better in the world if people were aware of what the book says. That being said, I feel that the book could have been shortened and some of the later chapters could be omitted. Also, the book started off on solid ground with all claims being backed by experiments, but later made some far-fetched claims where the authors didn't hold up to the high standards of proof they setup up in the early chapters.

The first 3 chapters were excellent. The authors clearly explain how self-justification works and lay out cognitive dissonance theory. In chapter 3, they go in-depth into how memories can be wrong and how they play into what we want to believe. This was quite a revelation to me how ordinary people could be so wrong about what they remember. I would now be more careful when recalling old memories. They use the pyramid analogy very well in explaining how opinions form and how they harden as you justify them and base more decisions on them, and why it is a good idea not to be too fixed on any opinion or ideology.

The fourth chapter was a good listen. The authors discuss how "recovered memories" proved wrong and how social workers and clinicians with good intentions ended up causing people to "remember" childhood abuse, leading to false accusations and broken families. The authors explain what constitutes proper science, and how individuals, professionals and experts can be completely wrong about something because they haven't examined it critically or scientifically. They give an example of psychotherapy and how psychology clinicians (not scientists) have often caused more harm than good to their patients. Self-justification comes in the way of making people correct themselves, therefore causing more harm. The fifth chapter is about wrongful convictions, and how prosecutors deal with the dissonance of being wrong and sending innocent people to jail. Self-justification comes into play here too. "I sent someone to jail. Therefore, he must be guilty"

In my opinion, chapter 6 made too strong a claim - Relationships and marriages are ruined by self-justification - without proper backup. The authors don't examine whether self-justification is a cause or merely a symptom of a troubled marriage. It did bother me that for all the talk about doing proper science, the authors throw all of that to the wind and expound on their opinions in this chapter. Chapter 7 talks about larger issues such as conflicts between nations and groups. Although it was interesting information, I am not sure whether it should have been included in this book. Again, this chapter was far from scientific, and only offers the example of post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa as to how things can be done differently.

Finally, chapter 8 was meant to give practical advice. They do talk about how, in America, people don't own up to mistakes because they are afraid to look stupid. To me, apart from that, it was a lot of preaching, exhorting the reader/listener to own up to his/her mistakes. Personally, as someone who has a tendency to justify my actions, I felt this was a black-white approach, without looking at the grey area. For instance, there are two negative consequences of self-justification - 1) you make a bad situation worse by not being amenable to change (continuing to pour money into a bad investment, continuing to hurt somebody). 2) You don't mend relationships or come clean to yourself and others. If you admit your mistake to yourself (without saying it to others or in public), you at least fix problem 1, which is the more important problem in my opinion.

If you are considering this book, you will likely enjoy it. Nevertheless, be prepared to be taken out of your comfort zone, and exposed to common failings you are likely making. I haven't read any similar books and can't comment on what is new or different in this book
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- Anand

Insightful study of human behavior

The book is a bit dry, but knowledge is not always entertaining. It's a bit complex, so unlike the human being... It is definitely a worthwhile read and is credible science, unlike most of the over-simplified dribble that is presented as science today. One must approach this book with an open mind, a love for psychology, and strive to better understand the complex human condition -- one's own condition. If you harp on the details of who the authors picked as examples, you've missed the point. If you are looking for a political slant, bashing of belief in UFOs (of the intergalactic kind), or even probably religion, (since you are looking) you will find it. We are all creatures of our time, we have dispositions, views, and preferences. This book, if you read it not looking for your own agenda, is an excelling insight into how we make decisions and live with (and explain away) their convergences. I myself am guilty... oh and BTW: this download is only part I, can't seem to find part II...
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- Andrew A. Barzyk

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-17-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios