Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average
Joseph T. Hallinan
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
We forget our passwords. We pay too much to go to the gym. We think we’d be happier if we lived in California (we wouldn’t), and we think we should stick with our first answer on tests (we shouldn’t). Why do we make mistakes? And could we do a little better?
We human beings have design flaws. Our eyes play tricks on us, our stories change in the retelling, and most of us are fairly sure we’re way above average. In Why We Make Mistakes, journalist Joseph T. Hallinan sets out to explore the captivating science of human error—how we think, see, remember, and forget, and how this sets us up for wholly irresistible mistakes.
In his quest to understand our imperfections, Hallinan delves into psychology, neuroscience, and economics, with forays into aviation, consumer behavior, geography, football, stock picking, and more. He discovers that some of the same qualities that make us efficient also make us error prone. We learn to move rapidly through the world, quickly recognizing patterns—but overlooking details. Which is why thirteen-year-old boys discover errors that NASA scientists miss—and why you can’t find the beer in your refrigerator.
Why We Make Mistakes is enlivened by real-life stories—of weathermen whose predictions are uncannily accurate and a witness who sent an innocent man to jail—and offers valuable advice, such as how to remember where you’ve hidden something important. You’ll learn why multitasking is a bad idea, why men make errors women don’t, and why most people think San Diego is west of Reno (it’s not).
Why We Make Mistakes will open your eyes to the reasons behind your mistakes—and have you vowing to do better the next time.
runner that I mentioned a few pages back shows how, with great practice, we can imbue otherwise meaningless information with meaning and thus make something more memorable. Sometimes, though, our brains do this for us, automatically extracting meaning from the world even when we have no idea they are doing so. This is especially true when it comes to people's faces. Humans seem to have an innate knowledge of faces. Experiments with newborns, for instance, have shown that almost from the moment we
to err at something, we ~ at someth ing, we would rather err by failing to act. That's d because we tend to view inaction as a passive event-we didn't do anything. And .... .. : would rather err ~ by failing to do : something. since we didn't do anything, we feel less .•••••.••••••.••••.•..•.• responsible for the outcome that follows. This was illustrated in a series of experiments conducted by Kruger and his colleagues. They looked at the test-taking practices of more than sixteen hundred
I thought I did recall." So I sent him a copy of Neisser's article, hoping for a more detailed analysis. In return, I got a very short note. "I believe Neisser Why We Make Mistakes has distorted both my testimony and the tapes," h e wrote. "The problem is, it would take a lot of time that I don't have to marshal all the information." After that, D ean stopped responding to m y in qUlnes. Hindsight Isn ' t Twenty -T wenty Neverth eless, Dean's testimony underscores an important point:
left-handers do. Years ago, after the Hale-Bopp comet made a spectacular appearance in the evening skies, investigators in England asked left- and right-handers if they could remember which way the comet had been facing when they saw it. Right-handers were significantly more likely than lefties to remember that the comet had been facing to the left. Handedness is also the best predictor of a person's directional preference. When people are forced to make a turn at an intersection, righthanders,
children to one of the nation's most well-known hospitals, Cedars-Sinai, in Los Angeles. This is where the mistake occurred. The following day, November 18, the twins were injected twice with a massive overdose of the blood thinner heparin, which is often used to flush the tubes used to deliver intravenous medications to infants. At 11:30 a.m. and again at 5:30 p.m., nurses at the hospital mistakenly administered heparin with a concentration of ten thousand units per milliliter-instead of the