Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) details the process that we all take to distance ourselves from our mistakes. Like The Lucifer Effect it is an eye opening book. I'm about half way through and I've been really impressed with it so far. The book doesn't criticize people for being human. In fact most of the analysis in the book starts after the mistake has been made. If we own up to and speak about it in the active voice we are on our way to starting to correct the problem.
One part that I thought was very eye opening was an FMRI study on the brain activity of people as they were told different pieces of information that agreed with and some that went contrary to what the subject already believed. As long as the statements being read to the subject supported their existing beliefs their brain activity showed normal activity in the logical areas and the emotional areas of the brain. When they are read a statement that is dissonant to their beliefs the logic areas shut down and their emotional areas spike. In a very real sense they have shown that the fight or flight reflex by its very nature is illogical and based on emotion. Once they are again told statements that they agree with the logic area begins to function normally again. I've witnessed this personally on many occasions. When I've pointed out someone else's inconsistency they have lit into me with a strong emotional tirade.
Just as with Zimbardo's book, so far this book has shown me the value of being intellectually honest and consistent in you opinions. For me this has not been much of a problem. I've never felt the need to follow the herd. I'm perfectly fine with being the only one who believes quite the same as I do. I can see how someone who proudly touts their political affiliation would have a hard time making internal peace with decisions made by they candidate that went contrary to their personal philosophy.
One story that they tell about overcoming this cognitive dissonance came from conservative columnist William Saphire. I normally haven't been too impressed with Saphire's opinions. However, in this story Saphire takes the moral high ground in order to avoid his internal dissonance. Such actions should be admired. They are very rare, especially in politics. Saphire was a very vocal opponent of the
The thing that I enjoy most about these types of books is that they give real, practical advice as to how to avoid the behavior that they describe. Actually putting it into practice is, of course, much harder. I'm looking forward to reading the rest.