Supported by

That Feeling When

The Cognitive Science Behind Repeating Mistakes

May 12, 2016 | 8 videos
Video by The Atlantic

Being constantly late, losing your phone, spending too much money, dating the same inadvisable people—these are all errors that human beings make over and over again. But it has more to do with how the brain is wired than with a lack of discipline. In attempting to understand where we went wrong, our brains create “mistake pathways,” ruts that we get into when we try not to make another misstep. In this short video, staff writer Olga Khazan explains the psychological reasons why it’s so hard not to keep repeating mistakes.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Authors: Jeremy Raff, Olga Khazan

About This Series

Exploring the psychology behind everyday human habits and emotions