We all make mistakes, but obviously fewer mistakes than other people, right? We’re almost perfect, where everyone else is pretty ordinary. Or so we tend to think.

For those of you who haven’t read this book, it is so worth the read. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson address topics that cause and contribute to why we make decisions and how we justify those decisions to others and ourselves, even if they aren’t the best ones. If you haven’t heard of these before, let us introduce you to some important concepts about social psychology.

  • Cognitive Dissonance: Psychological stress experienced when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values; or participates in an action that goes against one of these three. Ex. If your spouse commits a crime.
  • Confirmation Bias: The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values—the Donald Trump MO.
  • Cognitive Bias: The systematic pattern of deviation from the norm or rationality in judgment. All social justice warriors.
  • Positive Feedback Loop: The process that occurs in a feedback loop that exacerbates the effects of a small disturbance. Think cattle stampede.
  • Self-Deception: Denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument, telling yourself that it’s normal to have six martinis in a row once in a while.

These phenomena occur both in ourselves and in others, and recognizing them can help us understand why people have made mistakes. Understanding this helps us to be better when making decisions and helps us to understand others when they may be at fault and fail to realize or own up to it.