Being Wrong

Being Wrong

Adventures in the Margin of Error

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Both wise and clever, full of fun and surprise about a topic so central to our lives that we almost never even think about it."
--Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

In the tradition of The Wisdom of Crowds and Predictably Irrational comes Being Wrong, an illuminating exploration of what it means to be in error, and why homo sapiens tend to tacitly assume (or loudly insist) that they are right about most everything. Kathryn Schulz, editor of Grist magazine, argues that error is the fundamental human condition and should be celebrated as such. Guiding the reader through the history and psychology of error, from Socrates to Alan Greenspan, Being Wrong will change the way you perceive screw-ups, both of the mammoth and daily variety, forever.

Publisher: New York : Ecco, c2010.
ISBN: 9780061176043
Characteristics: viii, 405 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Nov 19, 2018

I liked this book a lot. There are no earth shaking revelations in this book (IMO), but lots of examples/issues showing how wrong we can be and never know it/admit it. If you think "this applies to all those other idiots out there, but not me" you are missing the point completely. It does apply to you - it applies to all of us.

My only (minor) complaint is the author went over the same ground multiple times so the end of the book was less interesting to me than the beginning. But a worthy read.

I savoured this book – more books like this, please! This well-written book explores our urge to be right (all the time), the vast diversity of our errors and mistakes, and our motives and responses to error – both historically and in a modern context. Kathryn Schulz covers error in the context of science, psychology, politics, religion, and more. Each chapter gave me a lot to think about, and her humorous writing style had me laughing ruefully about how true to our collective and individual experience of error as captured by this book. Wonderful stuff. (submitted by JF)

Aug 27, 2015

An entirely fresh and provocative take on one of the most universal aspects of being human. Engrossing, thought-provoking and in a sense liberating, especially the idea that much of human progress stems from a never-ending series of errors and that every search for truth begins with a recognition of a knowledge deficit, doubting the easy answers or questioning prior assumptions.

May 17, 2015

Very good!!

Nov 18, 2013

This book is about why we make mistakes, how we feel about being wrong, and how we do (or don't) learn from our errors. Counter-intuitively, the author says that being wrong is good. Her book is not a guide to how to avoid error, nor is it a self-help manual, although in the course of reading it you will reap much wisdom for general living. It's more of an extended meditation on why error is the natural human state and how that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The author, a journalist, is a breathtakingly good writer. She is a consummate story-teller and mines her material from many diverse veins: interviews with interesting people, fascinating research in philosophy, psychology, and political science, and a rich store of examples from literature and popular culture. At least one review I read compared her with Malcolm Gladwell. Personally, I like her writing better. Her clever use of arresting case studies, sparkling wit, and lightly-worn erudition kept me turning the pages eagerly, but I never had the sense that she was cherry-picking, distorting, or oversimplifying academic findings to improve her story.

You may be wondering what errors she is talking about. The answer is just about everything: errors about the physical world, about most fields of human thought, about the big religious and ethical issues, and about what is going on in the minds of other people - and in our own. Her inquiry ranges from trivial errors like losing the car keys, to huge ones like the existence (or not) of weapons of mass destruction in another country.

This book is well worth reading from cover to cover. But if you have only limited time, skim Part I, her two introductory chapters, and then read chapters 12 ("Heartbreak") and 13 ("Transformation"). They stand on their own as bravura pieces of writing. "Heartbreak" deals with wrongness in the area of love: the emotional bomb-shell of a failed intimate relationship. "Transformation" explores how we can be so wrong in the realm of self-knowledge (examples range from buyer's remorse to conversion experiences). After that, I'll bet you'll be sold on reading the rest and sharing its ideas with friends!

SkyTower Oct 17, 2011

"We are wrong about what is wrong!"

Jun 01, 2011

Schulz talks about an earlier end of the world and what the believers said when it didn't happen. We are hearing the same things today.

Jul 20, 2010

I would like to check this out, I think it is a book everyone should read.... some more than others.


Add a Quote
Jul 20, 2010

"error is both a given and a gift - one that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves." Kathryn Schulz

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top