Book cover for Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson

Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me)

by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson



This book was fantastic. A deep dive into how people self-justify their actions and the cognitive dissonance they are comfortable living with.


The guiding metaphor of this book has been the pyramid of choice: As soon as people make a decision, whether reasoned or impulsive, they will change their attitudes to conform to that choice and start minimizing or dismissing any information suggesting they chose the wrong option.

Imagination Inflation

more you imagine something, the more confident you become that it really happened—and the more likely you are to inflate it into an actual memory, adding details as you go

Benevolent Dolphin Problem

A fun shorthand example for confirmation bias.

There are stories of dolphins helping nudge shipwrecked humans to safety. To accept this as evidence they like humans we would need to know about cases where dolphins have caused harm and, ultimately, have killed humans. But

We don’t know about those cases because the swimmers don’t live to tell us about their evil-dolphin experiences.

Arrogance Control

At its core, therefore, science is a form of arrogance control.


We can all understand why victims would want to retaliate. But retaliation often makes the original perpetrators minimize the severity and harm of their side’s actions and claim the mantle of victim themselves, thereby setting in motion a cycle of oppression and revenge. “Every successful revolution,” observed the historian Barbara Tuchman, “puts on in time the robes of the tyrant it has deposed.” Why not? The victors, former victims, feel justified.