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To err is human. Yet most of us go through life assuming (and sometimes insisting) that we are right about nearly everything, from the origins of the universe to how to load the dishwasher. If being wrong is so natural, why are we all so bad at imagining that our beliefs could be mistaken, and why do we react to our errors with surprise, denial, defensiveness, and shame?

In Being Wrong, journalist Kathryn Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes relationships—whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations. Along the way, she takes us on a fascinating tour of human fallibility, from wrongful convictions to no-fault divorce; medical mistakes to misadventures at sea; failed prophecies to false memories; "I told you so!" to "Mistakes were made." Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she proposes a new way of looking at wrongness. In this view, error is both a given and a gift—one that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves.

In the end, Being Wrong is not just an account of human error but a tribute to human creativity—the way we generate and revise our beliefs about ourselves and the world. At a moment when economic, political, and religious dogmatism increasingly divide us, Schulz explores with uncommon humor and eloquence the seduction of certainty and the crises occasioned by error. A brilliant debut from a new voice in nonfiction, this book calls on us to ask one of life's most challenging questions: what if I'm wrong?

Topics: Creativity, Cognitive Science, Social Science, Investigative Journalism, Contemplative, Funny, Debut, and Creative Nonfiction

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061997938
List price: $10.99
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A book about how humans can be wrong. It had some parts that were pretty good, but mostly it was more abstract than I was interested in.more
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error turns the camera inward to our own personal experience of error. Kathryn Schulz writes that we relish being right: “Our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient. […But of] all the things we are wrong about, […] error might well top the list. It is our meta-mistake: we are wrong about what it means to be wrong. […] it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are.”In a gentle narrative filled with curiosity and even humor, Schulz explores philosophy, psychology, history, and the personal experiences of people being wrong (lovers, explorers, crime victims and economists, among others). Over four sections, she 1) defines error; 2) investigates how we get there (e.g. our senses, memories, beliefs, the data at hand); 3) examines how we feel about being wrong; and 4) encourages us to embrace error. Extensive endnotes and an index complete the book.She’s adamant that error isn’t an intellectual inferiority or moral flaw but rather something beneficial, a way of learning and becoming -- where, quoting the philosopher Foucault, “The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” Schulz writes, “When you were a little kid, you were fabulously wrong about things all the time”; she suggests that when we seek new experiences it is a way of plunging ourselves back into the childhood experience of not-knowing, where error leads to rapid learning.She also suggests that there is no actual state of “being” wrong -- we know we’re right and then we discover we were wrong and we transition to a new state of being right. And it’s those “hinge moments” of awareness that provoke the revelatory shifts that change us; it’s also our reluctance to acknowledge error and complete those transitions that keeps us stuck in painful life situations.It's an intelligent and deeply researched book, highly readable and highly recommended.more
This is an outstanding book dealing with belief and error, certainty and denial. There are many interesting anecdotes and philosophical asides. Altogether an excellent presentation and discussion of being wrong!more
Life changing!more
Excellent book. Provides a tremendous amount of insight without being dry or preachy. I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to understand people behave as they do.

more
When I first got this book I actually didn't think it was going to be a book that I would enjoy. I'm not even sure why that is because I have just been nothing but fascinated, especially so at all the research this book must have required to write. The amount of work in putting the book together is not lost on me. My guess would be that this is one of those books that a college professor would assign to his class. I read it through once, and then reread each chapter once more if not twice for some. I have never taken any college courses but IO have self educated to a certain (non) degree. There is no doubt that I have really enjoyed this book, for I have penciled in some notes and highlighted sections, something I try to avoid doing usually. I am pretty impressed with the entire book, references and the authors personal references. All of which has really made for an interesting study of Being Wrong. I'm very pleased to add that this is one more of the books I've read that I will being easily entertained by and probably get more out of each time I go through it in the future.more
Read all 10 reviews

Reviews

A book about how humans can be wrong. It had some parts that were pretty good, but mostly it was more abstract than I was interested in.more
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error turns the camera inward to our own personal experience of error. Kathryn Schulz writes that we relish being right: “Our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient. […But of] all the things we are wrong about, […] error might well top the list. It is our meta-mistake: we are wrong about what it means to be wrong. […] it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are.”In a gentle narrative filled with curiosity and even humor, Schulz explores philosophy, psychology, history, and the personal experiences of people being wrong (lovers, explorers, crime victims and economists, among others). Over four sections, she 1) defines error; 2) investigates how we get there (e.g. our senses, memories, beliefs, the data at hand); 3) examines how we feel about being wrong; and 4) encourages us to embrace error. Extensive endnotes and an index complete the book.She’s adamant that error isn’t an intellectual inferiority or moral flaw but rather something beneficial, a way of learning and becoming -- where, quoting the philosopher Foucault, “The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” Schulz writes, “When you were a little kid, you were fabulously wrong about things all the time”; she suggests that when we seek new experiences it is a way of plunging ourselves back into the childhood experience of not-knowing, where error leads to rapid learning.She also suggests that there is no actual state of “being” wrong -- we know we’re right and then we discover we were wrong and we transition to a new state of being right. And it’s those “hinge moments” of awareness that provoke the revelatory shifts that change us; it’s also our reluctance to acknowledge error and complete those transitions that keeps us stuck in painful life situations.It's an intelligent and deeply researched book, highly readable and highly recommended.more
This is an outstanding book dealing with belief and error, certainty and denial. There are many interesting anecdotes and philosophical asides. Altogether an excellent presentation and discussion of being wrong!more
Life changing!more
Excellent book. Provides a tremendous amount of insight without being dry or preachy. I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to understand people behave as they do.

more
When I first got this book I actually didn't think it was going to be a book that I would enjoy. I'm not even sure why that is because I have just been nothing but fascinated, especially so at all the research this book must have required to write. The amount of work in putting the book together is not lost on me. My guess would be that this is one of those books that a college professor would assign to his class. I read it through once, and then reread each chapter once more if not twice for some. I have never taken any college courses but IO have self educated to a certain (non) degree. There is no doubt that I have really enjoyed this book, for I have penciled in some notes and highlighted sections, something I try to avoid doing usually. I am pretty impressed with the entire book, references and the authors personal references. All of which has really made for an interesting study of Being Wrong. I'm very pleased to add that this is one more of the books I've read that I will being easily entertained by and probably get more out of each time I go through it in the future.more
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