Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) Book Review

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson is one of those rare books that shakes you to your core, forcing you to confront your own cognitive biases, blind spots, and the unsettling human tendency to justify our actions and beliefs. As a reader who has had the privilege of delving into its pages, I can confidently say that this book is a profound exploration of the human psyche and an essential guide for anyone interested in self-awareness, psychology, and personal growth.

1-Sentence Summary: In this thought-provoking book, Tavris and Aronson unravel the intricate web of cognitive dissonance, self-justification, and the myriad ways we deceive ourselves, offering readers a chance to recognize and mitigate these destructive tendencies in their own lives.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

TitleMistakes Were Made, (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
AuthorCarol Tavris, Elliot Aronson
GenreSelf Help
Publication DateJanuary 1, 2007
Length464 pages

Where to Purchase

Best Quotes from the Book:

  1. “When people hold a strong belief that is central to their sense of self, they are more likely to go to great lengths to justify and rationalize their actions, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

Analysis: This quote encapsulates one of the central themes of the book – the idea that our self-identity is deeply intertwined with our beliefs, making it incredibly difficult to admit when we are wrong. It emphasizes the lengths to which we will go to protect our self-image, even when it means ignoring undeniable facts. The lesson here is to be vigilant about the beliefs we hold dearly and be open to revising them when confronted with contrary evidence.

  1. “The more people commit themselves to a belief or course of action, the more likely they are to stick with it, even when it’s clear that they should change course.”

Analysis: This quote highlights the sunk cost fallacy, where individuals feel compelled to continue down a path they’ve invested heavily in, even when it’s evident that it’s a dead end. It serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing when our investments, whether they be financial or emotional, are leading us astray, and the need to cut our losses and change direction when necessary.

  1. “In disputes, it’s often more important to save face than to discover the truth.”

Analysis: This quote underscores the destructive nature of our need to save face in conflicts. It can prevent us from finding common ground and resolving issues, ultimately perpetuating misunderstandings and feuds. It teaches us the value of humility, the willingness to admit when we are wrong, and the importance of pursuing truth and reconciliation over personal pride.

Book Summary

“Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)” takes readers on a deep dive into the psychological mechanisms that underpin our ability to rationalize and justify our actions and beliefs. Through a myriad of real-life examples, the authors explore cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, self-justification, and the powerful urge to avoid admitting our mistakes.

The book provides readers with valuable insights into the reasons behind human behavior, shedding light on why people often double down on their errors instead of correcting them. It serves as a mirror, reflecting our own tendencies to avoid accountability and seek validation for our choices, even when they are clearly flawed.

Readers can learn a great deal from this book, including how to:

  • Recognize their own cognitive biases and self-justification mechanisms.
  • Understand the psychological factors at play in their decision-making processes.
  • Improve their critical thinking skills and the ability to evaluate evidence objectively.
  • Cultivate greater empathy and understanding towards others, especially in the context of disagreements and conflicts.

Book Review

Tavris and Aronson’s writing style is engaging and accessible, making complex psychological concepts understandable to the layperson. They use a plethora of real-world examples, ranging from political scandals to personal relationships, to illustrate their points, making the book relatable and thought-provoking.

One of the book’s strengths lies in its relatability. Most readers will find themselves nodding in recognition as they recognize their own tendencies to justify their actions or beliefs. It offers a sense of validation, reassuring readers that these behaviors are not unique to them but rather part of the human condition.

However, no book is without its flaws. Some readers may find that “Mistakes Were Made” occasionally delves too deeply into case studies and real-life examples, which can make it feel repetitive at times. Additionally, while the book does an excellent job of highlighting the problems with self-justification, it could provide more practical guidance on how to overcome these ingrained tendencies.


This book is part of my list of best manipulation books. Check out the list for more books on this subject.

This Book is Recommended for:

  1. Anyone interested in psychology: “Mistakes Were Made” offers valuable insights into human behavior, making it an excellent choice for those looking to understand the intricacies of the mind.
  2. Those seeking personal growth: If you want to become more self-aware, improve your decision-making, and learn how to avoid the traps of self-justification, this book is a must-read.
  3. Individuals dealing with conflicts and disputes: The book provides a valuable perspective on why people often dig in their heels during disagreements and offers tools for resolving conflicts more effectively.

Small Actionable Steps You Can Do:

  1. Practice humility: Recognize that you are not infallible, and it’s okay to admit when you’re wrong. Start with small instances in your daily life where you can acknowledge your mistakes without defensiveness.
  2. Seek out diverse perspectives: Actively engage with information and opinions that challenge your existing beliefs. This can help reduce confirmation bias and promote open-mindedness.
  3. Encourage constructive feedback: Create an environment where you and those around you can provide feedback without fear of judgment. Constructive criticism is a valuable tool for personal growth.
  4. Reflect on past decisions: Take time to assess past decisions and actions that may have been influenced by cognitive dissonance or self-justification. Learn from those experiences and strive to make more informed choices in the future.
  5. Practice active listening: When engaged in disagreements or discussions, make a conscious effort to listen to others without immediately formulating your response. This can lead to more productive conversations and better understanding.

“Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)” is a thought-provoking and enlightening book that delves into the intricate workings of the human mind when it comes to justifying our actions and beliefs. While it has some minor drawbacks in terms of repetitiveness and practical guidance, its strengths in relatability and accessibility far outweigh any shortcomings. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology, personal growth, or navigating the complexities of human behavior. It has the potential to transform the way you perceive yourself and others, ultimately leading to a more open-minded and empathetic outlook on life.


  • Michael Corbin

    Michael Corbin stands out as a dynamic content writer which combines his dual passions for self-help and digital marketing literature. A fervent believer in the transformative power of books, Michael delves deep into self-help titles, extracting valuable lessons and insights that he actively integrates into his daily life. Simultaneously, his keen interest in digital marketing books has not only expanded his knowledge but has also played a pivotal role in the success of his business ventures. Always on a quest for self-improvement and growth, Michael's reviews are a testament to his commitment to personal and professional development. His writings offer readers a unique perspective, as they are infused with real-world applications and experiences derived from the books he reviews. For those seeking to elevate their personal lives or enhance their business strategies, Michael Corbin's reviews serve as a trusted guide, pointing them to the most impactful and actionable books in the realms of self-help and digital marketing. His relentless pursuit of knowledge and betterment makes him an invaluable asset to the literary community and an inspiration to readers and entrepreneurs alike.

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