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

Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Harcourt,  May 2007

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 and engaging book, renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look at 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.

hardcover | ISBN: 9780151010981 | Publication Date: May 2007

"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

"This book is charming and delightful. But mainly it's just damn smart. Tavris and Aronson explain how politicians, pundits, doctors, lawyers, psychotherapists -- and, oh yes, the rest of us -- come to believe that we are right and reasonable . . . and why we maintain that dangerous self-deception in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary."
--Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

"To err is human, to rationalize even more so. Mistakes Were Made will not turn us into angels, but it is hard to think of a better -- or more readable -- guide to the mind's most devilish tricks."
--David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture

"Please, somebody, get a copy of this book to the president and his cabinet right away. Read it aloud into the Congressional Record. If this book doesn't change the way we think about our mistakes, then we're all doomed."
--Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things

"Combining far-ranging scholarship with lucid, witty prose, Tavris and Aronson illuminate many of the mysteries of human behavior. A delight to read, with surprising revelations in every chapter."
--Elizabeth F. Loftus, author of Eyewitness Testimony

"Tavris and Aronson don't let any of us off the hook but they do teach us how to avoid hanging ourselves on that hook again and again. One of the most needed and important books for our time."
--Warren Bennis, author of On Becoming a Leader