Willful Blindness

Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril

Publisher: Anchor Canada
A book that will open eyes to the most serious problem of our times.

In the case of the US Government versus Enron, the presiding judge chose to employ the legal concept of willful blindness: you are responsible if you could have known, and should have known, something which instead you strove not to see. The guilty verdict sent shivers down the spine of the corporate world. In this book, Margaret Heffernan draws on psychological studies, social statistics, interviews with relevant protagonists, and her own experience to throw light on willful blindness and why whistleblowers and Cassandras are so rare. Ranging freely through history and from business to science, government to the family, this engaging and anecdotal book will explain why willful blindness is so dangerous in a globalized, interconnected world, before suggesting ways in which institutions and individuals can start to combat it. Margaret Heffernan's thought-provoking book will force us to open our eyes.


groups were asked to assess how much they thought they would like the people whose faces they’d seen if they were to meet them in the future. They were also asked how far they believed those people to be similar to themselves.
The students who had seen the same face for four weeks believed more strongly...
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"[An] absorbing new book about why we choose to avert our gaze from wrongdoings or flaws or sad certainties we can't bring ourselves to confront. Willful Blindness cuts a broad swath across the fabric of our culture."
—The Gazette
"Writing in clear, flowing prose . . . [Willful Blindness] made me think long and hard about how the pace and priorities of our daily lives can hinder our ability to live as decently and as truthfully as we can."
—The New York Times

“[A] riveting, important book. . . . [Heffernan] is an engaging writer able to marshal fascinating multi-disciplinary research into a narrative that traverses the quest for conformity, groupthink [and] how an overloaded mind leads to moral blindness. . . . Eye-opening.”

“A call to arms to any whistle-blowers who see what lies ahead and have the courage to speak up. . . . A sharp-eyed perspective on the ever-gathering storm.”

 “A thoughtful and entertaining treatise on the seductiveness—and consequences—of ignoring what’s right in front of our eyes … Heffernan’s cogent, riveting look at how we behave at our worst encourages us to strive for our best.”
Publishers Weekly

Willful Blindness is an engaging read, packed with cautionary tales ripped from today’s headlines as well as a trove of research on why we often stick our head in the sand. With deft prose and page after page of keen insights, Heffernan shows why we close our eyes to facts that threaten our families, our livelihood, and our self-image—and, even better, she points the way out of the darkness.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

“An intelligent and eye-opening look at the pervasiveness of willful blindness across society. Margaret Heffernan presents overwhelming evidence of the need for mindfulness as part of the cure.”
—Ellen J. Langer, author of Mindfulness and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

Willful Blindness combines compelling anecdotes, insightful interviews, and convincing scientific evidence to confront the mental distortions that conspire to blind us. Heffernan skillfully shows that by questioning the reasons for our actions and beliefs, we can take positive steps to avoid deluding ourselves.”
—Daniel Simons, coauthor of The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us

Margaret Heffernan is an unblinking observer of what makes us tick in work and life. This is a book that everyone should read with eyes—and minds—wide open!”
—Alan M. Webber, author of Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self

“Heffernan speaks with a relentlessly constructive voice, brave curiosity, a passion for truth, and the practical mindset of someone who has built and led successful organizations herself. She motivates us to resist our own tendency to ignore the truths around us, and provides the insights and tools for us to empower others to do the same.”
—Mary C. Gentile, Ph.D., author of Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right