Why We Make Mistakes Book Summary - Why We Make Mistakes Book explained in key points
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Why We Make Mistakes summary

Joseph T. Hallinan

How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average

4.3 (67 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

Why We Make Mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan is a fascinating exploration of the psychology behind human errors. Through compelling stories and scientific research, it illuminates the many ways in which our brain can deceive us and provides insights into how we can avoid making mistakes in the future.

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    Why We Make Mistakes
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    Our view of the world is limited by our eyes and our minds.

    Before he became famous, Burt Reynolds entered a bar and noticed a broad-shouldered man harassing the patrons. Reynolds told the man to stop, but to no avail. Eventually Reynolds punched him, sending him flying through the air.

    That’s when Reynolds noticed that the man had no legs. How could he have not seen that?

    The world is incredibly complex: we’re constantly confronted with much more information than our brains can handle; plus, there are many different ways to look at every situation. 

    Part of the problem is that our field of vision is literally limited to 180 degrees, so at any given moment we see only half of what there is to see.

    But there’s also a psychological aspect to the problem: a scene will appear differently to one person than it will to another.

    For instance, when we observe an event, sometimes what we notice is determined by the person we identify with. When watching a male thief steal a woman’s purse, for example, men tend to focus on the thief while, in general, women focus on the female victim.

    Another way our view of the world is limited is our tendency to see only what we expect to see where we expect to see it. Which means we often fail to notice many, sometimes key, details.

    Even seasoned professionals are susceptible to this phenomenon. The “miss” rates are extremely high in professions that require people to look out for certain unusual objects – like tumors or bombs.

    For example, the number of flight passengers who attempt to smuggle firearms through security is only one in a million. As a result, baggage screeners simply don’t expect to find guns in passengers’ luggage and their screening process becomes lax, causing them to miss a quarter of all firearms.

    And that’s how it was possible for Burt Reynolds to miss the fact that the broad-shouldered bully had no legs: he simply couldn’t see what was right in front of his eyes.

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    What is Why We Make Mistakes about?

    Why We Make Mistakes is about the kinds of mistakes we commonly make, and the reasons behind them. With a broad focus encompassing neuroscience, psychology and economics, the book provides convincing explanations for our often fallible perception, our inability to recall simple data and the many biases that direct our decision making without us being aware.

    Why We Make Mistakes Review

    Why We Make Mistakes (2009) explores the fascinating world of human error and cognitive biases, offering valuable insights into why we so often bungle things up. Here's why this book is definitely worth a read:

    • With a wealth of research and case studies, it provides a deep understanding of the common mistakes we make, helping us avoid them in the future.
    • By exploring both psychological and environmental factors that contribute to our errors, the book offers a comprehensive and enlightening perspective on human fallibility.
    • Delving into everyday situations and relatable examples, the book keeps readers engaged, ensuring that you won't find the topic of mistakes boring.

    Who should read Why We Make Mistakes?

    • Anyone eager to understand the mechanisms behind human error
    • Anyone who always wonders why they never find mistakes in their own work
    • Anyone who wants to know why they can’t seem to remember names, PINs or their own password

    About the Author

    Joseph Hallinan is a journalist and writer who wrote for the Wall Street Journal and won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting. Besides Why We Make Mistakes, Hallinan has also written the award-winning Going Up the River: Travels in Prison Nation and, most recently, Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Powers of Self-Deception.

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    Why We Make Mistakes FAQs 

    What is the main message of Why We Make Mistakes?

    The main message of Why We Make Mistakes is that understanding why we make mistakes can help us learn from them and make better decisions in the future.

    How long does it take to read Why We Make Mistakes?

    The reading time for Why We Make Mistakes varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Why We Make Mistakes a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Why We Make Mistakes is worth reading as it provides valuable insights into human error and offers practical strategies to improve decision-making.

    Who is the author of Why We Make Mistakes?

    The author of Why We Make Mistakes is Joseph T. Hallinan.

    What to read after Why We Make Mistakes?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Why We Make Mistakes, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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