24 March 2012

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz


I was introduced to Being Wrong after watching a video of a presentation Kathryn Schulz gave at a TED convention.  The premise of the book intrigued me and I added it to the list, and it finally came up.

It was a fascinating book, exploring not only how and why people go wrong, but more importantly, what happens when we do - both the negative and the positive.

Schultz’s basic premise is that being wrong, though it can be uncomfortable, sometimes even catastrophic, can also give us opportunities for learning and growth.  This is something that I felt I could appreciate, as I’ve always done my best to admit when I’ve made mistakes - though, granted, I’m sure I’m just as blind as the next guy when it comes to realizing I’m wrong.  Even so, I do my best - as we all do, I guess.

Schulz covered a range of biases that explained the why and how of people going wrong - the whole gamut, from confirmation bias to the effect of peer and community pressure on beliefs.

Some of the most touching stories she related included a woman who mistakenly identified a man who raped her - and thus sent an innocent man away to jail for several years.  He was eventually exonerated, and she even extended an olive branch to him and made peace with him - until he ended up committing a murder.  Though she was wrong about him raping her, he did end up being a killer.

Though it was a grim example, it was also uplifting, showing how the woman’s experiences shaped her and allowed her to grow.

I think that Being Wrong is a book that everyone should read.  It forced me to reconsider many of my beliefs about wrongness and rightness, and I hope it does the same for many others.

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Books: Currently reading Gravity's Rainbow.  Wow, talk about dense.

Bottles: Had a glass of Kim Crawford Pinot Noir a few nights ago which was pretty good.

Writing: Slowly making my way through the rewrite.

Guitar: Out of town right now, so...no.