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Willful Blindness

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Willful Blindness

Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril

Walker & Company,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Hindsight is 20/20, but daily insight is not, so take off your blinders and avoid future trauma by opening your eyes.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Professor, blogger and documentary-film producer Margaret Heffernan borrows an analogy from neuroscientist Robert Burton to explain “willful blindness”: Like water moving in a riverbed, the flow of ideas, experiences and information over time carves out a belief system in your neural pathways. Working with and living among like-minded people increases the flow, until the banks of the riverbed grow so high that they become blinders, obscuring other options and points of view. Succinctly presenting her intriguing concept, Heffernan argues that this ultimately dangerous myopia may lead you to overlook threats to your own security or to the well-being of your community. getAbstract recommends that you bravely develop 360° eyesight by reading this revealing and informative exposé.


In Full View

Many of the most horrific crimes against humanity were committed out in the open in front of lots of ordinary citizens. What factor in human nature allows people to live in denial, ignoring problems within their own homes, communities, and religious and governmental institutions? How could executives at Enron, W.R. Grace, Countrywide and BP take actions that caused people to lose their lives or life savings?

Many forces stop people from seeing the truth, asking questions and taking action. Sometimes, a little denial doesn’t hurt. Yet, when the knowledge that people could have prevented a tragedy compounds the tragedy itself, a blind eye is often the culprit. Neuroscience explains some aspects of the brain that cause “willful blindness,” and you also can blame the foibles of human nature.

Like Me

Humans often fall in love with people who are like themselves. The online dating site eHarmony developed a questionnaire that identifies applicants’ traits in order to match them with similar people. The Internet radio site Pandora registers what kind of music you like and gives you more of it. The site’s founder Tim Westergren acknowledges, “Pandora...

About the Author

Documentary-film producer Margaret Heffernan, CEO of Information Corporation, blogs for the Huffington Post, CBSMoneywatch and Inc., and is a visiting professor at Simmons College.

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