Sorry. My bad. I made a boo-boo.
These are the ways we’ve learned to explain our mistakes. Utter your explanation sincerely enough and you’ll earn a shrug-accompanied consolation prize: “We’re only human.”
With that, our minor mishaps are slipped under the rug — permanently, we hope.
Few of us want to rehash the embarrassment of forgetting a critical online password or succumbing to the lure of an overpriced, but ultimately flavorless, bottle of wine.
Well, unless you’re Joseph T. Hallinan. He’s the author of “Why We Make Mistakes,” which details the processes behind a slew of common errors.
The book is an interesting read that refutes some common beliefs (our first instinct isn’t always the best bet) while confirming others (men really don’t like to ask for directions).
So why do we make mistakes? Here are some of the most intriguing factors:
We like to be different.
Plenty of errors can be prevented simply by consulting an instruction manual. But we refuse. What gives?
Hallinan attributes it to a human desire to go against the grain, and writes, “Studies have shown that people do not like to read instructions, and much of what we do read we either ignore or don’t understand.”
We make things too complicated.
Hallinan cites an estimate that up to 80 percent of calls to corporate computer help desks are for forgotten passwords.
Blame it on a faulty assumption that complicated passwords are easier to remember. The author concludes the same thought process often goes into the hiding places we choose.
“Researchers concluded that people mistakenly believe that the more unusual a hiding place is, the more memorable it will be. But the opposite turns out to be true: unusualness doesn’t make a hiding place more memorable — it makes it more forgettable,” Hallinan writes.
We believe in multitasking.
The concept of “multitasking” — juggling, and successfully completing, multiple tasks at once — is flawed, Hallinan notes.
“Indeed, the gains we think we make by multitasking are often illusory. That’s because the brain slows down when it has to juggle tasks,” he writes.
We think we’re awesome.
Well, at least above average.
This explains why so many of us annually waste money on gym memberships. People are overconfident when they estimate their level of discipline.
Hallinan cites a study concluding that gym members go to the gym about half as often as they expect to go.
“There is a reason, after all, why hotel rooms in Las Vegas are cheap and why cell phone calling plans give you ‘free’ minutes: both the casinos and cell phone companies know you will overestimate your self-control,” he writes.
ContactSonya Sorichat firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516.