Book Reviews, Value Investing

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): ‘Blind Spots’

Here is an excerpt from Capital Ideas Online on cognitive dissonance and self-justification followed by a book review of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris

Here are some parts that I have marked in my copy of the book “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

1.“Most of us find it difficult, if not impossible, to say, “I was wrong; I made a terrible mistake.” The higher the stakes – emotional financial, moral – the greater the difficulty.”

2.“Self-justification not only minimizes our mistakes and bad decisions; it is also the reason that everyone can see a hypocrite in action except the hypocrite. It allows us to create a distinction between our moral lapses and someone else’s, and to blur the discrepancy between our actions and our moral convictions. Aldous Huxley was right when he said, “There is probably no such things as a conscious hypocrite”.”

3.“Self-justification has costs and benefits. By itself, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It lets us sleep at night. Without it, we would prolong the awful pangs of embarrassment. We would torture ourselves with regret over the road not taken or over how badly we navigated the road we did take. We would agonize in the aftermath of almost every decision: Did we do the right thing, marry the right person, buy the right house, choose the best car, enter the right career? Yet mindless self-justification, like quicksand, can draw us deeper into disaster. It blocks our ability to even see our errors, let alone correct them. It distorts reality, keeping us from getting all the information we need and assessing issues clearly. It prolongs and widens rifts between lovers, friends, and nations. It keeps us from letting go of unhealthy habits. It permits the guilty to avoid taking responsibility for their deeds. And it keeps many professionals from changing outdated attitudes and procedures that can be harmful to the public.”

4.“Cognitive dissonance, the hardwired psychological mechanism that creates self-justification and protects our certainties, self-esteem, and tribal affiliations.”

5.“We will elaborate on the most harmful consequences of self-justification: how it exacerbates prejudice and corruption, distorts memory, turns professional confidence into arrogance, creates and perpetuates injustice, warps love, and generates feuds and rifts.”

6.“The engine that drives self-justification, the energy that produces the need to justify our actions and decisions – especially the wrong ones – is an unpleasant feeling that Festinger called “cognitive dissonance”.”

7.“Dissonance is disquieting because to hold two ideas that contradict each other is to flirt with absurdity and, as Albert Camus observed, we humans are creatures who spend our lives trying to convince ourselves that our existence is not absurd. At the heart of it, Festinger’s theory is about how people strive to make sense out of contradictory ideas and lead lives that are, at least in their own minds, consistent and meaningful.”

8.“Elliot and Festinger’s thinking challenged many notions that were gospel in psychology and among the general public, such as the behaviorist’s view that people do things primarily for the rewards they bring, the economist’s view that human beings generally make rational decisions, and the psychoanalyst’s view that acting aggressively gets rid of aggressive impulses.”

9.“Humans think; and because we think, dissonance theory demonstrated that our behavior transcends the effects of rewards and punishments and often contradicts them.”

10.“For example, Elliot predicted that if people go through a great deal of pain, discomfort, effort, or embarrassment to get something, they will be happier with that “something” than if it came to them easily. For behaviorists, this was a preposterous prediction. Why would people like anything associated with pain? But for Elliot, the answer was obvious: self-justification. The cognition that I am a sensible, competent person is dissonant with the cognition that I went through a painful procedure to achieve something – say, joining a group that turned out to be boring and worthless. Therefore, I would distort my perceptions of the group in a positive direction, trying to find good things about them and ignoring the downside.”

See full article here by Capital Ideas Online

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) – Description

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

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.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) – Review

Praise For Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

“Thanks, in part, to the scientific evidence it provides and the charm of its down-to-earth, commonsensical tone, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) 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

From the Inside Flap

“Tavris and Aronson have combined their formidable skills to produce a gleaming model of social insight and scientific engagement. Make no mistake, you need to read this book.” — Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence: Science and Practice

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?

In this terrifically insightful, engaging new book, renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right— a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong. Backed by years of research, 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. Turn the page, but be advised: You will never be able to shun blame quite so casually again.

From the Back Cover

“Every page sparkles with sharp insight and keen observation. Mistakes were made—but not in this book!” –Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

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.

“Hypocrisy is hardest to see in oneself. Tavris and Aronson, both social psychologists, demonstrate the whys and hows of this maxim by blending research with anecdotal evidence from celebrities, presidents, and CEOs.”–Psychology Today

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

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