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Extended Audio Sample Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average Audiobook, by Joseph T. Hallinan Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,670 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Joseph T. Hallinan Narrator: Marc Cashman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2009 ISBN: 9780739370599
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We forget our passwords. We pay too much to go to the gym. We think we'd be happier if we lived in California (we wouldn't), and we think we should stick with our first answer on tests (we shouldn't). Why do we make mistakes? And could we do a little better?

We human beings have design flaws. Our eyes play tricks on us, our stories change in the retelling, and most of us are fairly sure we're way above average. In Why We Make Mistakes, journalist Joseph T. Hallinan sets out to explore the captivating science of human error: how we think, see, remember, and forget, and how this sets us up for wholly irresistible mistakes.

In his quest to understand our imperfections, Hallinan delves into psychology, neuroscience, and economics, with forays into aviation, consumer behavior, geography, football, stock picking, and more. He discovers that some of the same qualities that make us efficient also make us error prone. We learn to move rapidly through the world, quickly recognizing patterns--but overlooking details. Which is why thirteen-year-old boys discover errors that NASA scientists miss--and why you can't find the beer in your refrigerator. 

Why We Make Mistakes
 is enlivened by real-life stories--of weathermen whose predictions are uncannily accurate and a witness who sent an innocent man to jail--and offers valuable advice, such as how to remember where you've hidden something important. You'll learn why multitasking is a bad idea, why men make errors, women don't, and why most people think San Diego is west of Reno (it's not).

Why We Make Mistakes will open your eyes to the reasons behind your mistakes--and have you vowing to do better the next time.

Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • What an eye-opener! If you're someone who has trouble remembering the names of people (or common objects), if you seem to forget things almost immediately after you learn them, if your memory of past events frequently turns out to be drastically at odds with the facts, relax: you're not alone. It's a truism that we all make mistakes, but Hallinan is more interested in why we make them, in what quirks of our mental makeup allow—and even frequently encourage—us to misremember important events, forget passwords, mistake strangers for friends, buy more groceries than we actually need, fall for optical illusions, and so on. Turns out these aren't sign of illness. Just the opposite: our minds behave this way because our brains are wired this way. Hallinan cites numerous studies and experts (there is a lengthy bibliography), but he keeps the book from becoming a stodgy recitations of facts and statistics through the frequent use of illustrative examples and snappy prose. He also throws in a few big surprises, such as the revelation that multitasking is a myth (we don't do several things at once—we switch between various tasks without really focusing on any of them). A vastly informative, and for some readers vastly reassuring, exploration of the way our minds work. Booklist
  • Entertains while it informs. Hallinan brings the science of human behavior to life, showing how it applies to us every day. Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/3/2014

    " This the kind of book that is filled with so many interesting stories that I found myself sharing the anecdotes with my non-reader spouse. It is amazing how we err in simple ways. The purpose or method behind common error types is explained here by Hallinan. He helpfully closes the book with a chapter on how to avoid many of these mistakes yourself. An informative read! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joe Soria | 1/27/2014

    " A good read but similar to many other observational psychology type texts in tone and with the studies and research. It all seemed too familiar but interesting nonetheless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tammy | 1/27/2014

    " Pretty interesting book...did skim parts of it though. If only it taught me not to be so bothered when I DO make mistakes! But it's nice to be reminded that we all make mistakes! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joanne | 1/12/2014

    " A light and easy read - good for situations where you can't always pay close attention and concentrate (like airports, public restaurants, my house). Not as superficial as the Gladwell books but based on a similar model of interpreting sociological and psychological studies for the lay person. Some interesting anecdotes that are likely to entertain but not fascinate. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Efox | 12/28/2013

    " In the vein of "How we Decide" and "Sway" (both of which I also enjoyed, this book discusses the finer points of how our brains operate and why we think we're above average and fail to learn from our mistakes. I really enjoyed it and it was a great interesting/fun read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kelly | 12/20/2013

    " I enjoy reading this kind of psychology book that incorporates a bunch of academic studies to explain the way we think in an interesting, readable way. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amy | 12/18/2013

    " Interesting facts, poorly presented. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Roxann Souci | 12/18/2013

    " Fun read. If you think you're usually right, you might be surprised by this second opinion. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jon Chin | 11/12/2013

    " The book shared some interesting studies. However the several grammar mistakes throughout the book were slightly annoying. I wish the points he made would have been more cohesive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Terry | 10/29/2013

    " As a book on error, this read more a a list of potential sources for poor decisions. It lacked the framework of Russo's Decision Traps, which would have helped enormously. Provided many good examples, but lacked the depth needed by a serious student. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stacie Hidek | 9/7/2013

    " This was a fun, quick read. It went over a lot of different studies and research, but in a light, conversational tone. (And I thought the cover design was clever, too.) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea Patrick | 9/5/2013

    " Interesting, but mostly unremarkable inasmuch as I have not much to say about it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Roberta Roy | 7/16/2013

    " A book for anyone who wonders why he or she is not more reliable--as well as for all those who think they always have the answer. For me, a great read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary | 7/9/2013

    " Interesting, a similar tone to Malcolm Gladwell. Pointed out some stuff people do that we don't notice we are doing and which leads us to bad choices. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dennis Henn | 12/31/2012

    " Interesting read. Many of our mistakes come about because we think we are better than what we are. Practice humility. Seek counsel. Accept, even cultivate, criticism. You'll be okay. Don't give people gift cards and don't get a year's membership to a health club. Both are wastes of money. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judith | 12/6/2012

    " An analysis supported by research detailing the common reasons we make mistakes and how it is important to design systems to take this into account instead of expecting humans to not make mistakes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Falguni78 | 11/15/2012

    " Very interesting.. worth reading .. helps us to understand human mind (and that's normal) and yet we all make the same errors over and over again "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dena Burnett | 6/22/2012

    " Easy read and LOTS of examples. I would have liked to see more analysis of the examples instead of simply referring to the original article. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shane | 3/2/2012

    " This book is what the title implies: a book on why we make mistakes. It differs from the more recent "You Are Not So Smart" because it focuses on clear mistakes. It's an easy read and worthwhile for anyone trying to improve himself. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matthew | 11/15/2011

    " A good analysis of the causes of human error, but I'm eager to finally get a book geared more to helping address the error rather than explaining it -- more of a self-help book than "science for laymen." "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 friendlybutler | 3/27/2011

    " Very interesting read. Rated three stars because the writing leaves a little to be desired. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Grace | 2/13/2011

    " After making so many mindless mistakes at my job, I desperately wanted to figure out why I've been doing it! Nothing groundbreaking here, but I did enjoy the anecdotes. I rarely read non-fiction, but this book held my attention. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brian | 1/30/2011

    " Eye opening research based analysis of why we are all flawed, despite our best intentions. I learned a ton. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 1/11/2011

    " I enjoy this type of psychology book and this was no exception. An interesting study of human behavior. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Petr | 12/27/2010

    " This book contain lot of examples of people behaviour. So if you like Dan Ariely and books like Influence you probably already know lot of examples from this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marty | 11/23/2010

    " I enjoyed it very much but suspect I won't remember enough of it to help me make fewer mistakes.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 11/22/2010

    " This was a really good book. There was a lot of interesting information. This book would probably appeal to people who like malcolm gladwell books or other stuff on human psychology. I learned a lot about human error and overconfidence and plenty of fun facts too.

    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Randomweights | 11/22/2010

    " Pop psych synthesised and applied to real life examples on the nature of mistakes and how we fool ourselves into thinking we're better than we really are. A wakeup call to take your brain off cruise control and advice on how not to fall into the trap of (self) deceptive thinking. "

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About the Author

Joseph T. Hallinan is a former writer for the Wall Street Journal, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He lives in Chicago with his wife and three children.

About the Narrator

Marc Cashman is a four-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for audiobook narration. His voice has also been heard locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally on radio, television, film, documentaries, radio plays, and video games.