“Willful blindness” – why we seem to prefer ignorance

The biggest threat our society faces, according to author Margaret Heffernan writing for BNet, is willful blindness: the human propensity to ignore the obvious.

“It isn’t just a business problem, of course. We do it in our private lives when we leave those credit card bills unopened or take on a mortgage we can’t afford or insist that tanning salons really won’t cause us any harm.”

Heffernan is the author of Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril, which will be published this spring. In her latest book, Heffernan argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don’t see – not because they’re secret or invisible, but because we’re willfully blind. She examines the phenomenon and traces its imprint in our private and working lives, in government, in organizations who ignore warning signs among their teams – and then asks: What makes us prefer ignorance?

4 thoughts on ““Willful blindness” – why we seem to prefer ignorance

  1. Your posts are almost invariably insightful, thought provoking, and informative, Carolyn. This one, however, was little more than a shameless promotion of a book, with only a tease about the content. Sure, the topic sounds promising, but a glimpse into the answer to the question posed in the title would’ve been more compelling. Instead, we got a shallow video, a definition of the term, and a link to the author’s Web site, which also gives not even a peek under the curtain. Her own blog post was substantive, but you’ve taught us to expect that directly from you, our intrepid reporter of all nags ethical. And, we all have a bad day, now and again. I look forward to your next post that’ll likely meet your lofty standards. Thanks for encouraging feedback, and sharing your wisdom.

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  2. Perry, give your head a shake. The Nag on a “bad day” is still more compelling, more interesting, more entertaining than most of us on our very best days.

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    • I agree, Martha!!!!

      Another example of willful blindness: coming back from your winter vacation with an all-over sunburn (as if you’ve never heard of sunscreen or the vain stupidity of deliberately frying your unprotected skin in the hot tropical sun).

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  3. I feel the effects from willful blindness from my family to school and work environment. I agree that people in position of authority are most inclined to it because they do not change their status quo and they fear loss of power and status. I always refer to it as a type of white slavery where we are subjugated to other desires and whims without a chance to to speak. We fear the consequences of our battles for something better. I feel hopeless…

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