Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Can we judge ourselves by anything else other than outcomes?

In Robert Rubin's book In An Uncertain World, he suggests that we should not only focus on the outcome of a decision but also the thought process which went into it in order to be able to fairly judge whether it was a good or bad decision. This seems to be a restatement of "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". I am sympathetic to the view but it's just too easy to convince myself that I did everything I could and the best I could. There are corrollaries to this:
1. In Fooled By Randomness, I could just as easily attribute success to ability when it was luck.
2. In Cognitive Dissonance, I can justify being right almost all the time.
The engine that drives self-justification, the energy that produces the need to justify our actions and decisions — especially the wrong ones — is an unpleasant feeling that Festinger called "cognitive dissonance."

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