Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

I have always found it exasperating the way politicians rarely admit being wrong. They should simply say “sorry, I made a mistake, but I learned from it and won’t make that mistake again.” Instead, they evade, they prevaricate, and they spout spurious justifications. Why do they do this, even when (as described in this book) owning up to mistakes will often actually make them more popular? Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) offers an answer.

When we make a mistake, our self-image (I am smart and moral) conflicts with the facts (I just did a stupid and bad thing). This leads to feelings of cognitive dissonance, which our minds find intolerable. To reduce the dissonance, we should change our self-image (I am smart but sometimes I do stupid things). But instead, we try to change the facts (it wasn’t really a bad thing because it was for their own good and only I was smart enough to realise that).

This book is based on this premise and explores it with many studies and anecdotes. It can explain prevaricating politicians, false memory syndrome, and why people confess to crimes they did not commit.

We all fail to own up to mistakes sometimes. But it is fun to keep this book in mind when listening to a politician trying to sell some hare-brained scheme. You still won’t understand what they say, but at least you’ll understand why they are saying it.

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  1. Pingback: Blind Spots — Bazerman & Tenbrunsel | Bennettarium

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