Rarely is a book as clear and significant in its message as the recently-published Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). Written by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, it’s truly a "must" read.
When Leon Festinger’s A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance was published in 1957, it introduced a major theoretical breakthrough in the field of psychology in developing the concept of cognitive dissonance. In fact, my father referred to Festinger's book as "the most significant work in social psychology" in the twentieth century. Elliot Aronson was a graduate student of Festinger’s in the fifties.
In their book, Tavris and Aronson show clearly that we all make excuses for ourselves without knowing it. Self justification, a form of cognitive dissonance, is an important aspect of how we perceive ourselves. People create stories about themselves -- carefully-constructed stories, at that. We are quite selective about what we remember, putting ourselves in the best light possible or self-justifying our actions. As the authors explain in their book -- subtitled Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts -- it’s just part of our nature.
Any person who interacts with other people (in other words, everybody) should read this book. If you don't cringe in self-recognition several times while reading it, you're not being honest with yourself.
To give a brief example of my single mistake when “typing,” I'll discuss why I originally typed Alan Greenspan as a FieldMarshal Rational, rather than a Mastermind Rational.
In Greenspan's new book, The Age of Turbulence, he and his wife, journalist Andrea Mitchell, make it clear that the über-economist is not expressive or extroverted. However, not having this information until recently, I had thought otherwise. When doing research on Alan Greenspan earlier, I read Bob Woodward’s book, Maestro, and observed Greenspan on TV. Based on Woodward's description of Greenspan attending “parties” in Washington—evidence suggesting an expressive (and extroverted) kind of guy—it seemed a good guess to consider him a FieldMarshal Rational. He was decisive; he led the Federal Reserve. Besides, I "needed" a well-known, visible, and "likeable" Fieldmarshal for my website. Bottom line: I let my needs trump all the circumstantial evidence I possessed at the time indicating that Alan was actually a Mastermind.
When questioned by others about whether I was correct in my typing, I resisted. I figured I knew better. I was the only one, after all, who had studied him. I was also the only one who had made a public commitment about him, typing him as a FieldMarshal Rational on the Keirsey.com website. Only when there was inconvertible evidence to the contrary did I finally concede.
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). Alas: now that I’ve read the book, I don't have quite as much conviction in my voice.