Albert Einstein: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein was one of the most significant scientific geniuses of the 20th century. His theories helped scientists break through some of the barriers to our understanding the physical world and the universe. He also contributed greatly to the philosophy of science. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is attributed to him? Alas, Buzzkillers, quotes like this seem to attach themselves to Einstein at the speed of light, and there’s no evidence he ever said it. (By the way, two other brainiacs and quote attractors, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain, are also credited with coining this idea.)

The “definition of insanity” quote first appeared in 1981, in a document published by Narcotics Anonymous. It was a sort of guide book for addicts who trying to overcome their disease, and it warned its readers that, “insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” Narcotics Anonymous was trying to convince its members that continuing to use narcotic drugs and expecting to be able to stop on their own was folly.

It’s not insanity, however, to keep listening to Professor Buzzkill. In fact, listening and subscribing is the definition of enlightenment. So make sure to rate and review our podcast on iTunes and tell all your friends to subscribe and join the ranks of the enlightened.

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  1. Adam Pendragon on September 25, 2017 at 4:27 am

    The real problem with this quote is that it’s always misquoted! Most believe the quote to be: . . . doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The problem with this misquote is that, logically speaking, one can, and usually does, do the same thing over and over, getting different results each time. The Laws of Thermal Dynamics teach us this, and it is the foundation of Chaos Theory. For example, when someone shuffles a deck of cards over and over, in exactly the same way each time, the odds of the top card being the ace of spades each time are astronomically low; and each time the cards are shuffled the odds get lower. Therefore, one should expect different results. Einstein most certainly did not say this version of the quote–he would have known better than that! This isn’t the definition of insanity, it’s the definition of the Laws of Thermal Dynamics. The actual quote, whoever said it, is: THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY IS DOING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER AND GETTING THE SAME RESULT, BUT EXPECTING A DIFFERENT ONE. Meaning, very simply, if you keep running down the street naked every time you take a drink, and each time you tell yourself it won’t happen next time, you’re nuts! Or, at least, you’re probably an alcoholic. No offense, but that’s what AA means by this, not that trying to quit on one’s own is folly, as you claim in your article. It has to do with alcoholic behavior: Trying to convince yourself that next time it will be different, next time you’ll be able to control it, when you’ve never been able to in the past, is a sure sign that you’re (probably) an alcoholic, because non-alcoholics can control it–which causes me to believe that, most probably, someone affiliated with AA first said this, for this very reason. I hope this will be passed-on so people will stop misquoting this quote, but I’m not going to hold my breath because (to quote myself) most people don’t want to hear the truth, they just want to hear the current most-popular version of the truth.

    • Arien on March 5, 2024 at 7:56 pm

      No. It’s repeating the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different result. Touching an electric fence and each time expecting not to get shocked. Going back to the same abusive boyfriend and expecting him not to get violent. Falling off the wagon again because you tried to do it alone again. It’s repeating the same behavior and expecting it to have a different outcome, but as long as you continue repeating the same behavior you continue getting the same result. And your definition just isn’t as catchy.

    • Eric Gail Carpenter on April 16, 2024 at 4:27 am

      You hit the nail on the head…ALL THE WAY AROUND! Great job!

  2. Aj slone on April 10, 2024 at 9:53 pm

    This shit is crazy 🤪

  3. Aj slone on April 10, 2024 at 9:54 pm

    This shit is crazy 🤪 asf

  4. Mia on June 20, 2024 at 6:08 pm

    We think of someone insane in a strait jacket in a padded room. Im here to tell you MOST are on the streets and in our lives and should NOT be running around and arent getting help. Very tragic.