Summary of Why We Make Mistakes

How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We are Way Above Average

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Why We Make Mistakes book summary
To err is human, but how do you become less error prone? Begin by understanding why you make mistakes in the first place.


8 Overall

8 Applicability

7 Innovation

9 Style


A woman hanged herself in a tree on a busy street. Yet, no one reported the suicide for more than 14 hours even though her body was clearly visible. Why? Because the incident occurred on October 31st and passersby mistook the body for a Halloween decoration. This horrifying example demonstrates the way context – as well as traits that are innately human – plays a role in how people make errors. As Joseph T. Hallinan explains, human beings are biased, overconfident, judgmental, downright irrational creatures of habit who are blissfully unaware of their limitations. All these traits will cause people to make errors – some are silly, such as saying “unicorn” when you mean “unicycle,” and some horrendous, such as administering the wrong dose of medicine or flying a plane into the ground. This intriguing book focuses more on why people err than on preventing errors, though it does suggest solid, useful measures. getAbstract recommends it to those who are interested in why they blunder and in how to become more goof-proof. Taking the steps Hallinan outlines could keep you out of a lot of trouble.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What human characteristics cause people to make mistakes
  • What current research says about why mistakes happen
  • How to avoid making errors


You’re Only Human
If you make a mistake, you might comfort yourself with the phrase, “I’m only human!” Most mistakes are, indeed, the result of human error. People often err because of universal biases in the way they perceive the world. For instance, right-handed people usually turn right...
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About the Author

Joseph T. Hallinan is a Neiman Fellow, a Pulitzer Prize winner, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Going Up the River, about the U.S. prison system.

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