My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Think about the last time you were wrong. Can you remember it? I could, after taking some time to think about it. I thought my car had been stolen, and had reported it stolen, before I realized that I’d left it in the parking lot of a nearby Safeway and walked home with my groceries by mistake. I wonder if the police dispatchers still laugh at that one, or if the incident’s been replaced in their memories by others like it that happen a dozen times a day.
That’s one story of my being wrong. I have others. But like most people, I feel as if I’m right about everything I currently think, even though a reasonable percentage of it is probably wrong. But I like feeling as if I’m right. I’m comfortable with it. And I admit that I’ve not always behaved well when someone’s pointed out my mistakes.
What’s great about Kathryn Schulz’s book is that it’s made me rethink my fear of being shown I’m wrong.
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margins of Error is an exceptional work that recommends taking an optimistic view of our capacity for wrongness without ignoring the costs of our errors. Being wrong, Schulz says, feels a lot like being right. But realizing we’re wrong is often the first step toward a greater empathy with our flawed neighbors and sometimes a transformed sense of ourselves; while our refusal to admit mistakes usually encourages us to be cruel, judgmental, and angry.
Our ability to err, Schulz argues, is essential to our ability to change and grow intellectually and morally. It’s what allows the world to surprise us and sometimes even teaches us to think more carefully. Those looking for a companion piece to The Believing Brain would do well to buy, beg, borrow, or steal a copy.