Mistakes Were Made looks at the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance which suggests that our mind is programmed to filter rational facts to justify our emotive beliefs causing problems of prejudice in memory, clinical judgement, criminal law, government and relationships.
Mistakes Were Made Summary
Mistakes Were Made is an excellent book on cognitive dissonance.
Looking at how our minds our primed to self-justify our beliefs even in the face of compelling contradictory evidence, the authors offer up a series of insights that help to explain why so many of us struggle to accept poor judgement, damaging actions and incorrect assessments in business and in life.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- Cognitive dissonance is holding two contradictory beliefs in our mind at the same time.
- As a result of human propensity to re-enforce our existing beliefs we act with confirmation bias pretty much constantly, suiting the facts to our conclusions.
- Most people fail at impartiality and are unaware of their own unconscious bias leading to the worst type of self-justifying judgements.
- Lobbyists work by establishing Groupthink judgement step by step ensuring that once an idea takes hold it becomes resistant to counter-opinion.
- Human memory is always reconstructive suggesting that salience is determined more by what filters our mind has than an accurate depiction of events.
- Clinical judgement sets a high price on self-justifying belief systems as professionals are valued based on their ability not to be wrong more so than the objective facts that lie behind diagnosis, treatment and cure.
- In the criminal justice system, false confessions are a clear example of cognitive dissonance as the police are focussed on securing a conviction more than securing the correct conviction.
- Marital problems are also caused by cognitive dissonance where self-justifying beliefs build up over time to the detriment of objective analysis, compromise and mutual solution building.
- Cognitive dissonance is also apparent in war and intractable conflicts where us vs. them narratives are used consistently in-spite of compelling evidence that both sides share the burden of wrongdoing.
- The best way to protect yourself from cognitive dissonance is to actively embrace the idea that good judgement comes from bad judgement and that an error is only a mistake if you refuse to set things right.