Why we make mistakes …

In this and a couple of subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Confused man

Today, the first 4 reasons on the list …


* * * * * *

When it comes to making mistakes, the cause is overwhelmingly attributed to human error.

Whether it’s airplane crashes (70 percent), car crashes (90 percent), or workplace accidents (90 percent), humans are usually to blame.

However, in many cases, our mistakes are not entirely our fault. All of us are afflicted with certain systemic biases in the way we see, remember, and perceive the world around us, and these biases make us prone to commit certain types of errors.

The errors we make can be explained through 13 lessons:

1. We look but don’t always see.

When it comes to human error, this kind of mistake is so common that researchers have given it its own nickname: “a looked but didn’t see” error. When we look at something — or at someone — we think we see all there is to see. But we don’t. Often times, we miss important details, some small and some larger.

2. We all search for meaning.

A recent poll of 3,000 people found that one-fourth of them couldn’t remember their own phone numbers, and two-thirds couldn’t recall the birthdays of more than three friends or family members.

When it comes to hiding places, people also mistakenly believe that the more unusual a hiding place is, the more memorable it will be. However, the opposite is actually true: Unusualness actually makes a hiding place more forgettable. The key to a good hiding place is making a quick connection between the thing being hidden and the place in which it is hidden.

The same holds for passwords.  While associated meanings may make them easier to hack, they’re certainly more memorable if they have personal meaning.

3. We connect the dots (prematurely).

The moment we experience a flicker of recognition, the brain does something similar to connecting the dots that we didn’t know it was connecting. These types of subtle connections are very powerful — and very common.

Once we “see” a pattern developing we hurry it to its logical conclusion — sometimes erroneously — regardless of contrary indicators that may surface.

4. We wear rose-colored glasses.

Hindsight isn’t 20/20.

In remembering our own actions, we all tend to wear rose-colored glasses. Without intentionally trying to distort the record, we are prone to recalling our own words and deeds ina light that is more favorable than an objective record would show.

In fact, the tendency to see and remember in self-serving ways is so ingrained in us — and so subtle — that we often have no idea that we’re doing it.

* * * * *

Next up: The myth of multi-tasking …

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