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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.

©2008 Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What listeners say about Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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

69 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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...

42 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A Great Listen - As Long As You Listen

A fascinating discussion of cognitive dissonanance, something that affects every single one of us; not only the people we disagree with. I'm sure that this book will confirm your prejudices if listened to casually but if listened to with as an open a mind as you can muster it will cause you to begin to re-evaluate your own memories, beliefs and relationship with the 'truth'. A wonderful opportunity to 'look in the mirror'.

36 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Book

I am facinitated about how the human mind works and how we make decisions in our daily lives. In my opinion this book is one of the best out there for exploring how the mind works and how people can arrive in a position contrary to their initial core beliefs over time.

35 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Everyone makes mistakes

The title of the book gives the impression that it's a self-help book. It's more of a psychology book explaining how people can make mistakes, think they are right, and honestly believe that. A good example is false memories. How often have you said, "I could have sworn I did that." You see the event in your head, yet evidence shows it didn't happen. You rationalize it ("someone must have moved it") instead of accept the most obvious answer ("I was mistaken in thinking that I did it").

The books goes even further into big mistakes that people make and refuse to admit, such as in the criminal system where suspects are locked away for years ("I know he's the rapist so I'll interrogate him for hours until he finally confesses") until DNA finally proves their innocence. Fortunately for most people, they are not making mistakes that means life and death. The book contains many extreme examples. Still, this is great book to read to understand and recognize your own mistakes. For example, maybe a friend asked for a favor and you said no. Initially you felt a little guilty for saying no. Then you start justifying the answer, "She wouldn't have helped me if I had asked for a favor. She's always looking for someone to do her work." So that guilty feeling goes away. It's a rude awakening to realize how your feelings have completely changed -- you went from feeling a little guilty to thinking your friend is selfish and lazy.

33 people found this helpful

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A BIT too Oprah-centric

A bit uneven and towards the end a bit too Oprah-centric. Felt like the book drifted from a scientific/psychological work to a clinical/self-help piece (a rational, scientifically grounded self-help book, but still one regardless). It was interesting, but sadly disappointing too.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Mistake was buying this book

This book is a poorly disguised vehicle to present 'liberal', far left of center political opinions. Book begins with diatribes against George Bush, Cheny, war on Iraq etc...the comments are predictable and not insightful in anyway. As you may have now guessed the authors are referring to political views that do agree with as foolish beliefts and bad decisions...if you are left leaning and want to rehash the same old opinions, then this is the book for you..othewise don't expect scholarly or insightful psychological analysis like that found in books like Blink, Predictable Irrational etc...

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Buying the paper version, the reader is terrible.

First off, I am sorely disappointed in some of the reviewers for failing to see beyond context. It's not about taking a side in politics, but about pulling out psychological phenomenon REGARDLESS of who ends up looking bad. Such is science. Science doesn't care about your politics it only cares about the truth. Clinton's foibles are brought in to play right alongside Bush's...again, science doesn't care about politics or making waves by uncovering things people would rather not deal with, it only cares about truth.


Cognitive Dissonance could probably be named as the driving force of humanity. And the driving force of the politically heated bad reviews.


As for this audiobook...it almost put me to sleep. The reader is absolutely terrible. She sounds like an automated computer. Sentences are run together such that you don't even feel the periods, paragraphs are in a monotone. It's not her voice that is unpleasant, it's the way she reads it. The paper version is engaging, this audiobook is not. You could have a better reader by letting your Kindle voice the words...ugh.


Save your money and make a note NOT to buy this or any other books read by Marsha Mercant.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Psychology book with practical advice

I was disappointed it was extremely similar to the Social Animal which I had already read and that it didn't go into as much scientific detail as the Social Animal (I can be real nerdy-most people will probably prefer this version to the textbook The Social Animal). But despite these small dislikes I was very impressed with information and particularly the fact the book gave practical advice about to apply the book's concepts to everyday life.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

Good book if you want to be defrauded of a credit. It's advertised as a study of a peculiar human psychological phenomena, but is actually nothing but a tendentious screed.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew L
  • 12-30-17

A life changing book, everyone should read it

I heard a recommendation of this by Alexi Sayle on British radio and was intrigued. It was a revelation, and has been a huge help in coming to terms with my own faults and mistakes, both at work and at home. I am now willing to accept criticism where I know I am wrong and more aware of my self justifying behaviour.

19 people found this helpful

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  • D. J. Craig
  • 07-27-18

Dissonance, blind spots and stereotypes

This book critically looks at techniques and professions that do not hold people accountable for their actions and things that cannot be proved from some “experts”. Although the field of psychology discussed is ever developing, not enough has been found out to understand the mind. This gives dissonance, a justification to why you have done something wrong and resentment to agree with your failures or see them. Great examples are used in the book with clear detailed methods of how to avoid this in your own life. The origin to this cognitive distinction is discussed and alternative cultures views to the idea of dissonance. Great book and throughly enjoyable and educational.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Richard D
  • 09-09-15

Interesting but Repetitive

I found the core concept of the book and the conclusion very interesting and I enjoyed the peformance. Unfortunately I found the middle of the book very repetitive with the same information recalled in different ways and scenarios. Whilst I'm sure this was the point (to show the concepts held up and in different situations) I started to lose interest and was glad when I got to the end. Overall I think it was good but I have heard better. It could benefit from some editing. 3* from me.

8 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • David Kinsella
  • 07-18-18

Female Narrator Sounds Like a Robot

imagine listening to Google Maps for 9 hours. That describes this narrator's attempt. Great book, but now I remember why I gave up on this audiobook 18 months ago. But I will battle on this time.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eoin
  • 06-18-15

essential reading for humans

In here somewhere is accountability and forgiveness occupying the same space. Informative and enlightening by any standard.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • G. M. J. Langan
  • 12-18-17

Necessary reading.

For me this book highlights the importance of taking personal responsability for our own actions. It encourages us to avoid blaming and shaming others and instead look at our part in the deed. The writers ask us to allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them. Well written and researched.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Laurie
  • 01-27-22

This deserves a review - Highly insightful

Maybe it’s because I love books about how we (our brains) process information which, after reading this book, maybe seen as a bias towards wanting to enjoy the book for the off? Its opened up a whole world of questions and understandings.

Every part of the book is intriguing, engaging and explains the inner workings of our thought processes and it’s potential origins and outcomes.

The summary about how we can inadvertently teach and portray failure as stupidity really hits home, especially when raising a small child. I’d love for all teachers to have a fuller understanding of these methods and teachings.

A book that can be recommended to anyone and should be read by everyone willing to accept their faults, help others and themselves in more ways than one.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bruce
  • 01-12-18

unflinching exploration of cognitive dissonance

I found this an engagingly performed, wide ranging investigation into the destructive effects of self-justification.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • DaveW
  • 11-28-15

Enjoyable

This is a very easy listen.

The core science was a rather minor portion at the beginning and after this came extensive examples where cognitive dissonance kept people wrong.

I'd have given it a 5, but there was a clear weighting in the examples of poor thought towards the liberal academic perspective (e.g. Dodgy policing). I'd have respected the book more if she had highlight topics less fashionable, like the West's guilt culture and resultant denial.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nigel
  • 09-16-11

No mistake was made buying this book

One of the best books on psychology I've ever heard. Fascinating, illuminating, funny and useful throughout

3 people found this helpful

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  • Molly M M
  • 06-25-20

Essential reading for every human !

Every person in a position of power should be compelled to listen to this book ...a fascinating & disturbingly recognisable catalogue of humans behaving badly !!
Yes I’m one of them!!!

1 person found this helpful