Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson's Book Review: Justifying our Actions

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Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson have written a book that many people may find difficult to read. Why? Because it is like holding a mirror in front of one’s own face and looking into it. The book is about something most, if not all of us, have done: Justified our actions or words no matter how wrong they were. As Tavris and Aronson (2007) wrote in their book, “. . . most of us find it difficult, if not impossible to say, ‘I was wrong; I made a terrible mistake.’ The higher the stakes – emotional, financial, moral – the greater the difficulty.”
Why is it so difficult for us to admit that we’re wrong? Tavris and Aronson (2007) wrote that instead of backing down and apologizing, people have a tendency to continue to justify their actions even when irrefutable evidence is staring them in the face. They are guilty. They know they are guilty. They and everyone else can see the evidence that they are guilty. But they continue to justify their actions.
Tavris and Aronson (2007) used President George W. Bush as an example of this blind justification, citing all the ways that he was wrong about going to war in Iraq. But still, after years and years of bloodshed, lost American lives, huge financial debt, etc., Bush stated to a conservative columnist, “I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions.” And to be bi-partisan, they also included one of politics’ biggest lies told by Bill Clinton. “I never had sex with that woman . . . Monika Lewinski.”
Tavris and Aronson (2007) compared this self-justification to what so many of us have done in our private lives. Namely, remain in unhappy relationships because we’ve invested so much time trying to make it work; staying in a dead end job because we’re...

... middle of paper ... never thought he did anything wrong – I devoured this book and felt so much better for having read it. I would like to know if men are more inclined to Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Justification than women. In my experience and in listening to other women, that seems to be the case as far as admitting to making mistakes and apologizing for them. But then women, in my experience, seem to be the most adept at Self-Justification in their ability to stay with the wrong man for so long, always ready with a reason to justify her actions.
The examples of how politicians justify their words and actions were extremely interesting and will be invaluable to me as I deal with politicians in my work.

Works Cited

Tavris, C., & Aaronson, E. (2007). Mistakes were made (but not by me): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. New York: Harcourt

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