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We forget our passwords. We pay too much to go to the gym. We think we’d be happier if we lived in California (we wouldn’t), and we think we should stick with our first answer on tests (we shouldn’t). Why do we make mistakes? And could we do a little better?
We human beings have design flaws. Our eyes play tricks on us, our stories change in the retelling, and most of us are fairly sure we’re way above average. In Why We Make Mistakes, journalist Joseph T. Hallinan sets out to explore the captivating science of human error--how we think, see, remember, and forget, and how this sets us up for wholly irresistible mistakes.
In his quest to understand our imperfections, Hallinan delves into psychology, neuroscience, and economics, with forays into aviation, consumer behavior, geography, football, stock picking, and more. He discovers that some of the same qualities that make us efficient also make us error prone. We learn to move rapidly through the world, quickly recognizing patterns--but overlooking details. Which is why thirteen-year-old boys discover errors that NASA scientists miss—and why you can’t find the beer in your refrigerator.
Why We Make Mistakes is enlivened by real-life stories--of weathermen whose predictions are uncannily accurate and a witness who sent an innocent man to jail--and offers valuable advice, such as how to remember where you’ve hidden something important. You’ll learn why multitasking is a bad idea, why men make errors women don’t, and why most people think San Diego is west of Reno (it’s not).
Why We Make Mistakes will open your eyes to the reasons behind your mistakes--and have you vowing to do better the next time.
Joseph T. Hallinan: Partly, it has to do with how our memory works. Our long-term memory, even for things we’ve seen thousands of times, is limited. Most of the time, we recall meaning but not surface details. It’s the same reason we remember faces, but not the names that go with them.
Q: Are there other real-world examples of this?
JTH: Sure. We just watched as Chief Justice John Roberts and President Barack Obama muffed the words to the Inaugural Oath—even though the oath has only 35 words and even though both men no doubt rehearsed it many times. It’s actually very hard to remember things verbatim. Take the National Anthem, for instance. You’ve sung it hundreds of times. But how many of the Anthem’s 81 words can you remember without singing it?
Q: How does this limitation lead to mistakes?
JTH: Because we think our memories are much better than they are, and rely on them more than we should. Consider how many times an eyewitness has mistakenly identified a criminal and you begin to see the significance of this type of error. Basically, we look but don’t always see.
Q: Alright then, we’ve waited long enough: which of the pennies above is the real McCoy?
JTH: That would be penny A. But when researchers conducted this experiment, fewer than half of the people in the study picked the right one.
(Photo © Andrew Collings)--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A Pulitzer winner for his stories on Indiana's medical malpractice system, Hallinan has made himself an expert on the snafus of human psychology and perception used regularly (by politicians, marketers, and our own subconscious) to confuse, misinform, manipulate and equivocate. In breezy chapters, Hallinan examines 13 pitfalls that make us vulnerable to mistakes: "we look but don't always see," "we like things tidy" and "we don't constrain ourselves" among them. Each chapter takes on a different drawback, packing in an impressive range of intriguing and practical real-world examples; the chapter on overconfidence looks at horse-racing handicappers, Warren Buffet's worst deal and the secret weapon of credit card companies. He also looks at the serious consequences of multitasking and data overload on what is at best a two- or three-track mind, from deciding the best course of cancer treatment to ignoring the real factors of our unhappiness (often by focusing on minor but more easily understood details). Quizzes and puzzles give readers a sense of their own capacity for self-deception and/or delusion. A lesson in humility as much as human behavior, Hallinan's study should help readers understand their limitations and how to work with them.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is one of the most enlightening volumes I have ever read. However, one must open your mind and let the information flow in without editorializing to maximize its effect.Published 4 months ago by John Sheehan
If you took a psychology class in college, you probably took part in experiments where grad students were testing aspects of human behavior. Read morePublished 5 months ago by iRead
A marvelous and informative book I wish it had been published 60 years ago so that my father could have given it to me when I was in my twenties. Read morePublished 6 months ago by David A. Kushner
I liked the use of statistics to support information disseminated. Very easy to read, not bogged down in minutia. Useful information in my psychology practice to assist patients.Published 7 months ago by Dawn Odonnell
This easy-to-read book, written by a journalist, summarizes a great many recent psychological studies revealing various deficiencies in people's perceptions, memory, and judgment. Read morePublished 7 months ago by E. Smiley
It wasn't as good as I thought it would be. It read more like a research/text book. Didn't finish the book it didn't hold my interest.Published 9 months ago by Cathy Sidwell
It was a very enlightening read. Makes you think you need to think more before making decisions.Published 9 months ago by Wayne E Beachy