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Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error Paperback – January 4, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In the spirit of Blink and Predictably Irrational (but with a large helping of erudition), journalist Schulz casts a fresh and irreverent eye upon the profound meanings behind our most ordinary behaviors—in this instance, how we make mistakes, how we behave when we find we have been wrong, and how our errors change us. [I]t is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are, she asserts. Schulz writes with such lucidity and wit that her philosophical enquiry becomes a page-turner. She deftly incorporates Wittgenstein, Descartes, and Freud, along with an array of contemporary social scientists and even a spin with Shakespeare and Keats. There's heavy stuff here, but no heavy-handedness. Being wrong encompasses the cataclysmic (economic collapse) and the commonplace (leaving a laptop in front of the window before the storm). Being wrong may lead to fun (playing with and understanding optical illusions) or futility (the Millerite expectation of the Rapture in 1844). Being wrong can be transformative, and Schultz writes, I encourage us to see error as a gift in itself, a rich and irreplaceable source of humor, art, illumination, individuality, and change—an apt description of her engrossing study. (June)
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.
Here’s a fascinating counterpoint to the notion that making a mistake somehow diminishes you as a person. We shouldn’t fear error, the author says; rather, we should embrace it because it’s our capacity for making mistakes that makes us who we are. (“To err is human” isn’t just an empty cliché.) Schulz explores the nature of error: are big mistakes fundamentally different from small mistakes, or are they all essentially the same? How much does peer pressure, or crowd response, affect our capacity to blunder? How and why do we remember relatively insignificant mistakes for the rest of our lives, long after they have ceased to be relevant to anything? And what role does “error-blindness”—our inability to know when we are in the process of making a mistake—play in our daily lives? Schulz writes in a lively style, asks lots of compelling questions, and uses plenty of examples to illustrate her points. Put this one in the same general category as Gladwell’s Blink (2005), LeGault’s Think! (2006), and Shore’s Blunder (2008): user-friendly, entertaining looks at the way our minds work. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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This book did so many things all at once, it's hard for me to describe.
Factual, objective, interesting, and above all extremely well written.
This book's greatest achievement, as far as I am concerned, is that it gave me stronger empathy for my fellow man and allowed me to forgive and appreciate myself more than I ever thought possible.
This book is not a "self help" or "improvement guide", it's just a clear observation of the things we often fail to allow ourselves to recognize.
Once we have discovered the true nature and benefits of being wrong, we can't help but become even just slightly better people in the process.
Author Kathryn Schulz provides us with one of the most thought-provoking pieces of work I've read in quite a while. A wise and witty researcher, writer, and storyteller, Schulz takes us on a fascinating journey through the world of error and leads us on an eye-opening exploration of related topics from how and why we make mistakes to how and why we believe what we believe.
Even simple ponderables like, "What was something that you used to believe, but no longer do?" or (even more challenging!) "What is something you believe today that you think you might not believe to be true in the future?" make for hours of self-reflection, discussion, and discovery.
If it is true, as James Joyce once wrote, that "a man's errors are his portals of discovery," then this book opens the door to a whole new way of thinking about thinking...and asking who we are as a result of what we believe and the mistakes we make.
Schulz's key thesis is that we are often wrong, but there are strong and good reasons for us to be unable to see that we are wrong; at least until we can't avoid it, and then we are surprised.
She delves at enjoyable length into why this is, how it serves us well and when it serves us ill. As an example, she points out that when confronted with people who do not agree with us, we start with the ignorance assumption ("you just don't understand all the facts as well as I do") and then proceed to the idiocy assumption ("ok, you do understand the facts, but you are too stupid to see them as I do") and then quickly move to the evil assumption ("you are smart enough to understand these facts but you are evil and so come to the wrong conclusions")
A fascinating and valuable contribution to understanding a fundamental aspect of the human condition; and highly recommended.
While the behavioral economists have tested and measured our persistence in fooling ourselves and our robust ability to keep such foolishness outside of our awareness - Schulz actually helps us to see beyond our 20/20 vision of everyone else's biases to glimpse and accept our own.
This is no self help book, but more of perceive, ponder, accept and savor opus. She circles the topic from the physical, social, judicial, medical, psychological and philosophical and crescendos to a call not to purge ourselves of error, but to embrace our complicated worlds and selves with a sense of doubt, curiosity, humor and awe.
Finally, she urges us to make mistakes like we make poems: reject certainty; deliberately explore ambiguity, not towards perfection, but towards disruption, reinvention and the pleasure of experiencing error.
I wish you the luxury and good fortune of reading her book.