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Why We Make Mistakes

 

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinan

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

I will say that this was an interesting read but the number of times I found myself experiencing déjà vu whilst reading results in only two stars from me: the similarities to studies and topics cited in Malcom Gladwell’s Blink (which I loved) was uncanny.  Maybe Hallinan thought the reading public would forget about Blink’s themes during the six years since its initial publication?!

Publisher’s Weekly: A Pulitzer winner for his stories on Indiana’s medical malpractice system, Hallinan has made himself an expert on the snafus of human psychology and perception used regularly (by politicians, marketers, and our own subconscious) to confuse, misinform, manipulate and equivocate.  In breezy chapters, Hallinan examines 13 pitfalls that make us vulnerable to mistakes: “we look but don’t always see,” “we like things tidy” and “we don’t constrain ourselves” among them.  Each chapter takes on a different drawback, packing in an impressive range of intriguing and practical real-world examples; the chapter on overconfidence looks at horse-racing handicappers, Warren Buffet’s worst deal and the secret weapon of credit card companies.  He also looks at the serious consequences of multitasking and data overload on what is at best a two- or three-track mind, from deciding the best course of cancer treatment to ignoring the real factors of our unhappiness (often by focusing on minor but more easily understood details).  Quizzes and puzzles give readers a sense of their own capacity for self-deception and/or delusion. A lesson in humility as much as human behavior, Hallinan’s study should help readers understand their limitations and how to work with them.

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