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Thursday, August 14, 2014
Being Wrong: A Book Review
Most people go through life thinking they are almost always right about pretty much everything virtually all the time. The reality is we are often wrong about things from the trivial to the universal. Being Wrong explores why we are wrong so often and how it is helpful to us.
Katheryn Shulz breaks down various sources of error, from sensory perception and cognitive interpretation to group prejudices and cultural biases. She also looks at the mental, psychological and social consequences of both being wrong and knowing you are wrong. She had so many categories of how we get things wrong as well as compound combinations of error, I began to wonder how we ever get anything right. I also marveled at humanity’s ability to remain in existence considering how massive some of our mistakes are.
In the end, Being Wrong suggests error is a fundamental part of thinking. Developing the ability to use the brain also develops the ability to misuse it. Shulz took time to focus on the positive aspects of being wrong, including innovation, learning and adaptive behavior. She didn’t spend anytime discussing situations where subjective opinion is the basis of being “right” or when the “right answer” can’t be known or situations where people continued to maintain the “wrong” stance when it was in their best long term interests. Still, Being Wrong is an insightful look an ignored part of our mental processes. If you decide not to read it you will, once again, be wrong.