Why do people refuse to admit mistakes - so deeply that they transform their own brains? They're not kidding themselves: they really believe what they have to believe to justify their original thought.
There are some pretty scary examples in this book. Psychologists who refuse to admit they'd bought into the false memory theories, causing enormous pain. Politicians. Authors. Doctors. Therapists. Alien abduction victims.
Most terrifying: The justice system operates this way. Once someone is accused of a crime - even under the most bizarre circumstances - the police believe he's guilty of something. Even when the DNA shows someone is innocent, or new evidence reveals the true perpetrator, they hesitate to let the accused person go free.
This book provides an enjoyable, accurate guide through contemporary social psychology. So many "obvious" myths are debunked as we learn the way memory really works and why revenge doesn't end long-term conflict.
Readers should pay special attention to the authors' discussion of the role of science in psychology, as compared to psychiatry, which is a branch of medicine. I must admit I was shocked to realize how few psychiatrists understand the concept of control groups and disconfirmation. Psychoanalysis in particular is not scientific. The authors stop short of comparing it to astrology or new age.
This book should be required reading for everyone, especially anyone who's in a position to make policy or influence the lives of others. But after reading Mistakes were Made, I suspect it won't do any good. Once we hold a position, say the authors, it's almost impossible to make a change.