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Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (edition 2010)

by Kathryn Schulz

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4271324,721 (3.85)37
Member:bragan
Title:Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
Authors:Kathryn Schulz
Info:Portobello Books (2010), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:non-fiction, minds and brains, read in 2014

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

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» See also 37 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I may be wrong about this, but Being Wrong is a very good book. Kathryn Schulz uses personal stories from a variety of sources, such as a wrongfully identified criminal, people losing their religion, and more trivial instances of mistakes, to explain just what is so humiliating about being wrong, and why it is so darn satisfying to be right. And she does all this with a consistently conversational tone, friendly and funny but not too funny when the more serious stories are being told.

In addition to intriguing stories, Schulz provides a very good potted introduction to philosophy by quoting from many major philosophers to illustrate the varying perspectives on "wrongness" and error. Most people nowadays would probably consider error to be something humiliating, that doesn't happen very often. But it does, all the time. Schulz argues that, where possible, we should try to see the positive side of error. It can stimulate creativity, broaden the mind or even change our lives for the better. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Nov 5, 2014 |
This book is an exploration of what the author calls "Wrongology": the ways in which we get things wrong, how we feel when realize we were mistaken, how we deal (or fail to deal) with our mistakes, and how we might benefit from accepting or even embracing our own capacity for error.

I've read a number of books on similar subjects, but this one has a somewhat different feel to it. It's less focused on psychological experiments and the exact ways in which our neurons misrepresent the world or our minds leap to irrational conclusions (although there is some of that), but instead takes a somewhat more philosophical tone. Schulz does still keep things fairly well grounded, though, in part by including detailed and interesting examples of people being wrong in various ways. It's also very engagingly written, with wit, intelligence, and heart. Definitely worth a look for, well, anybody who's ever been wrong about anything. ( )
1 vote bragan | Sep 7, 2014 |
42. Being Wrong : Adventures in the Margin of Error (Audio) by Kathryn Schulz, read by Mia Barron (2010, 14 hours, 17 minutes, 420 pages in paper format, Read July 10-25)

I thought about my job the entire time I listened to this. Not sure that comes across as a compliment. It’s just that I’m wrong a lot. And this book has me thinking about that, about how often I am surprised when I discover, for sure, I was wrong, and about how valuable that is, how much I learn from it and get better at what I do because of it.

It’s long book, that covers a lot of topics and then goes on and on about them. So, it’s good thing I found so many topics interesting.

Thing I learned:

That being wrong is a human problem. Animals and computers are never in state of awareness that they were wrong (probably arguable with animals). But humans are never in a state of knowing they are wrong, only that they were wrong. We always assume we are right about everything. Once we are aware we are wrong, we instantly know we are right that we were wrong, so maintain our permanent sense of rightness.

Our power of inductive reasoning. How we make vast conclusions on the tiniest amount of information. Typically we make our conclusion from the first bits of data, and then take the remaining data only with a sense of confirmation bias, looking for proof our initial conclusion was right. We need to do this to get through day-to-day life and it’s actually a very impressive thing. Computers can’t do inductive reasoning. But it’s also, naturally, error prone.

About the emotional disaster of transition - which is kind of like being in a state of wrongness. For example, if you have a strong belief and it is suddenly shown to be wrong, and you don't have another belief to replace it, you are left in difficult state. Belief is critical to our confidence that the world is as we think it is, even at the most basic lever. The transition state results in a loss of confidence.

About the mechanisms we use to avoid being proven wrong. How the less secure we feel about a belief, the more ardently we fight for it. And how some of us are so stubborn as to refuse to see the wrongness, including going through exaggerated states of denial of confabulation.

About confabulation - or making things up. How we all do it even when we think we are simply explaining what we are doing. How stubborn people tend to confabulate more.

On the separation in our minds between the parts that confabulate and the parts that fact check. We make stuff up first; it’s a critical part of our imagination. Then we fact check it second. Except that when we dream, we aren’t able to fact check. It’s the only time our imagination can run loose.

And so on.

Not a book for everyone, as it’s a bit long and very long winded. But it’s a great collection of interesting stuff. There is a lot here that might change how you view humanity.
3 vote dchaikin | Jul 26, 2014 |
Generally, people can’t bear to be wrong because it’s stigmatised as a bad thing. Kathryn Schultz turns this premise on its head, pointing out that not only does error allow us to learn but our tendency to cover up rather than confront error leads to things going even more off beam than they already were. It covers criminology, philosophy, psychology and neuropsychology, illustrates them with aptly chosen examples and covers a large, complex subject in a lucid and engaging manner. A lesson in how to value error rather than abhor it. ( )
  JonArnold | Mar 4, 2014 |
Error. What a great subject. Daunting as well. Schultz does a good job of covering some major ground in the history, philosophy, psychology, and science of error. Her language and writing style is fluid and engaging, her choice of quotes and anecdotal evidence often spot on. She argues, throughout the book, that error is an integral part of our intelligence, our progress, and a reminder of just how alone we are in the world.

Reading Being Wrong, I certainly understood better why I hate being wrong, why I love to say "I told you so." and most importantly, I realized what triggers my "I told you so" response most in other people: their lack of acknowledgement of an error. And then I realized that, probably, other people have the same reaction to my stubborn refusal to admit my own mistakes. Will I change and be more, uhm, humble? I don't know. I often think we can never change much, maybe just a tiny bit. Time will tell. ( )
1 vote bluepigeon | Dec 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
What is most cherishable about this bumper book of other people's booboos is its insistence that to experience error is, at its best, to find adventure – and even contentment. Schulz takes as her model Don Quixote, the knight-errant who was wrong about almost everything. "Countless studies have shown that people who suffer from depression have more accurate world views than non-depressed people," she points out.
added by mikeg2 | editThe guardian, Stuart Jeffries (Aug 28, 2010)
 
“Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" is an insightful and delightful discussion of the errors of our ways — why we make mistakes, why we don’t know we are making them and what we do when recognition dawns.
 

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Kathryn Schulzprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barron, MiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On the heels of the success of "The Wisdom of Crowds" and "Predictably Irrational" comes a thoughtful and persuasive celebration of human fallibility that examines what it means to be right or wrong--and why it matters so much to us.

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