The Blame Game

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The Paul Wolfowitz no-fault divorce with the World Bank is behind us, but the epidemic of non-accountability in American government rolls on. From the highest offices in the land, when fiasco erupts lately, we are grudgingly, belatedly told "mistakes were made." As if by gremlins, maybe, but not "me"!

The ducking and denial can seem so pervasive, maybe it's time to bring in a shrink. So we have. Human psychology is hard-wired to deny fault, she says. From your house to the White House. Even if that means denying reality.

This hour On Point: Ducking responsibility, and human psychology when things go wrong.

Quotes from the Show:

"When people make mistakes and they know they've done it and they know they're gonna get sacked for it or they know they're gonna get in trouble for it, they'll lie — they'll lie to us, they'll lie to anybody in the vicinity." Carol Tavris

"So people will deny their responsibility in order to avoid being punished, that's not news, that's not the surprise. What's interesting to us in our book is something that we think is far more insidious and far more dangerous and that's lying to ourselves. That's not 'I made a mistake and I don't want to admit it,' it's 'I don't' even see that I did make a mistake. I don't see that I made a mistake because I'm gonna justify what I did and, as soon as I make a decision and it may turn out to be the wrong one, I blind myself to information that might suggest I did the wrong thing'." Carol Tavris

"So the real danger we face is not from people who know they made mistakes and wanna get off the hook, but people who won't admit it to themselves that they were wrong." Carol Tavris


Carol Tavris, social psychologist, co-author of "Mistakes Were Made (but not by me).";
Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at the Atlantic Monthly.

This program aired on May 21, 2007.


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