Why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken
By Michael Turton
If you have never been wrong then you will have no interest in a free program coming up at The Hastings Center in Garrison. But if you’ve been known to make a mistake or two, you may find it very interesting – and useful – to attend. On Wednesday, Nov. 2, author Kathryn Schulz will talk about her new book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. And if members of the audience think that what she has to say is wrong, they will get a chance to prove just how right they are during a question and answer period. The talk begins at 6 p.m. followed by a reception and book signing at 7 p.m.
In Being Wrong, Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes our relationships—whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations. She takes us on a fascinating tour of human fallibility, from wrongful convictions to no-fault divorce, medical mistakes to misadventures at sea, failed prophecies to false memories. Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she proposes a new way of looking at wrongness – that error is both a given and a gift—one that can transform our world views, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves.
Daniel Gilbert, reviewing Schulz’s book for the New York Times wrote, “For most of us, errors are like cockroaches: we stomp them the moment we see them and then flush the corpse as fast as we can, never pausing to contemplate the intricate design of nature’s great survivor, never asking what it might reveal beyond itself. But Schulz is the patient naturalist who carefully examines the nasty little miracles the rest of us so eagerly discard.”
Being Wrong even made an impression on former U.S. President Bill Clinton. “Wonderful,” he said. “A brilliant book with a sweeping grasp of philosophy and physics and all points in between…. The whole culture of either thinking you’re always right or being paralyzed by the fear of being wrong is totally inconsistent with solving the problems of the modern world.”
Kathryn Schulz is a journalist, author, and public speaker with a credible (if not necessarily enviable) claim to being the world’s leading wrongologist. Her freelance writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, TIME, the “Freakonomics” blog of the New York Times, The Nation, and Foreign Policy, among other publications.
The Hastings Center is located on Route 9D in Garrison between St. Basil’s Academy and the Philipstown Park. Admission is free but seating is limited. To reserve a seat, RSVP to Siofra Vizzi at 845-424-4040, ext. 202 or VizziS@thehastingscenter.org. If you don’t attend, you may discover that you were … wrong.