Faulty Thinking – Cognitive Distortions

Truth & Illusions Quote Nietzsche

What is faulty thinking or cognitive distortions? they’re ways in which our minds can deceive us, making us believe something is true when it is not.

There are many different types of cognitive distortions that our minds use. This page will cover the most common types.

If you suffer from any of the below mentioned forms of faulty thinking or cognitive distortions, there are ways of changing our thinking with psychotherapy or other forms of psychological intervention. The trouble is you might not even be aware of them, this is why developing our self-awareness is always good. Sometimes becoming more self aware is all that is needed to resolves these types of thinking issues.

Common Cognitive Distortions

Black and White Thinking

This is when somebody places things in either one of two categories, for example left or right, success or failure. They cannot see the gray or the middle ground, simplifying a situation or event. The people who do this, tend to judge everybody and everything in this black and white way of thinking, including themselves.

Mental Filtering

All the larger positive aspects of a situation are filtered out and then a smaller negative point is focused on. A person may focus on a single persons character flaw and completely neglect any positive personality traits.

Jumping to Conclusions

An individual may believe that somebody doesn’t like them without any evidence to support that belief. Another example would be, predicting a negative outcome without any reasoning behind that prediction.


This faulty way of thinking is when a person attributes the cause of an event to themselves, even when they had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Someone may also interpret general comments and perceive them as direct comments to them.

Catastrophizing or Magnification

This distortion results in a person making a small problem or mistake seem much larger or much more important than it really is, this can also be reversed.

This can also relate to character traits, someone may magnify or minimize these traits.


Labeling is similar to generalizing, a person may attach labels to themselves or other people. These labels may be created by just one or two outcomes or situations, and then a label will be assigned to either themselves or somebody else. Example labels somebody might assign is “he is a winner, or he is a Loser”.

We also have Mislabelling, mislabelling is a way of twisting the truth in a way that makes something or someone appear negative. For example if somebody wishes to spend some time alone, they maybe mislabelled as being lonely, or having no one to spend time with. Also connected to prejudice.

Fallacy of Change

This is expecting people to conform to what we want if we just pressure them enough. They also place great importance on to getting that person to change.


Blaming somebody else for something bad that happens, or for feeling negative emotions. These people tend not to take any responsibility for any of the bad in their life. See dealing with negative people.

Emotional Reasoning

This is mistaking emotions for reality. Feelings and facts are considered to be the same. If I can feel it, it has to be true.

Should Statements

These people stick to a rigid set of rules that they create themselves. They believe themselves and other people should or shouldn’t do something. If these rules are broken it often results in feelings of anger, guilt or frustration, either directed inward or outward.

Over Generalization

If a negative outcome happened once, a person will expect that same negative outcome to happen again and again.

See related page Cognitive Bias.

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