Cognitive distortion  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



In cognitive psychology, cognitive distortions are thoughts that are exaggerated and irrational. Some variants of cognitive therapy claim that these thought patterns perpetuate some psychological disorders. David D. Burns presented the theory of cognitive distortions in The Feeling Good Handbook in 1989, Burns and his followers say that eliminating these "twisted" thought patterns improves mood and mental disorders such as depression and chronic anxiety. The process of learning the habit of refuting these thoughts is called "cognitive restructuring".


Some cognitive distortions are also logical fallacies.

  • All-or-nothing thinking (splitting) – Thinking in terms of a false dilemma. In other words, splitting involves using terms like "always," "every" or "never" when this is not either true or equivalent to the truth.
  • Overgeneralization – Making hasty generalizations from insufficient experiences and evidence. Compare with misleading vividness. Contrast with precautionary principle, where a possible harm is rightly presumed true upon a reasonable suspicion until proven false beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Magical thinking - Expectation of specific outcomes based on performance of unrelated acts or utterances. In logic, this is called wishful thinking.
  • Mental filter – Inability or refusal to view positive or negative features of an experience, for example, noticing only an aesthetic flaw in a piece of otherwise useful clothing, or a single good dish in an otherwise awful meal.
  • Disqualifying the positive – Discounting positive experiences for arbitrary, ad hoc reasons.
  • Jumping to conclusions – Reaching preliminary conclusions (usually negative) from little (if any) evidence. Two specific subtypes are also identified:
    • Mind readingInferring a person's possible or probable thoughts from their behavior and nonverbal communication in the context of the situation.
    • Fortune telling – Inflexible expectations for how things will turn out before they happen.
  • Magnification and minimization – Giving proportionally greater weight to a perceived failure, weakness or threat, or lesser weight to a perceived success, strength or opportunity, so the weight differs from that assigned to the event or thing by others. This is common enough in the normal population to popularize idioms such as "make a mountain out of a molehill." In depressed clients, often the positive characteristics of other people are exaggerated and negative characteristics are understated. There is one subtype of magnification:
    • Catastrophizing – Giving greater weight to the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or experiencing a situation as unbearable or impossible when it is just uncomfortable.
  • Emotional reasoning – Experiencing reality as a reflection of emotionally linked thoughts, e.g. "I feel (i.e. think that I am) stupid or boring, therefore I must be."
  • Shoulding – Patterns of moral reasoning based on what a person morally should or ought to do rather than the particular case the person is faced with, or conforming strenuously to ethical categorical imperatives which, by definition, "always apply". Albert Ellis termed this "musturbation".
  • Labeling and mislabeling – Limited thinking about behaviors or events due to reliance on names; related to overgeneralization. Rather than describing the specific behavior, the person assigns a label to someone or something that implies the character of that person or thing. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that has a strong connotation of a person's evaluation of the event.
  • PersonalizationAttribution of personal responsibility (or causal role or blame) for events over which a person has no control.
  • Fallacy of fairness - Holding an ethical standard that other people don't meet.
  • Blaming - Holding other people responsible for the harm they cause, and especially for their intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress on us.
  • Fallacy of change - Relying on social control to obtain cooperative actions from another person.* Always being right - Prioritizing truth or ethics over the feelings of another person.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cognitive distortion" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools