July 30, 2010 — Vol. 3, Issue 7
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
tells stories of screwing up and how we react to it.
Being right feels good. Being wrong does not. It's uncomfortable, irritating, maddening, and even nauseating. We don't like it and avoid it at all costs. In Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
, Kathryn Shultz explores this squeamish response to error in looking at how our culture thinks about error, how we feel about it, and how we cope with it. Shultz aims to alter our reaction to error in that it is possible for being wrong to feel as satisfying as being right.
Shultz makes her point with stories about blind patients who believe they can see, collapsing financial markets, close-minded government organizations, and even people jumping into the wrong car. In order to try and eliminate error, she writes, we must understand that it is inevitable. She proposes a change in the stigma surrounding error. "If we assume that people who are wrong are ignorant, or idiotic, or evil — well, small wonder that we prefer not to confront the possibility of error in ourselves." According to Shultz, by being wrong we learn how to correct our perceptions and beliefs about how the world actually is.
By and large, Shultz makes the case that we haven't mastered the ability to simply say, "I was wrong" with no caveats. Her hope is that in being wrong and acknowledging it, we will have learned something that will enable us to get it right the next time. "You might never have given a thought to what I'm calling wrongology," she writes. "You might be the farthest thing in the world from a wrongologist; but like it or not, you are already a wrongitioner. We all are."
Read an excerpt from Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error