Friday, 3 August 2007

Distorted Thinking [Part 2]

Fallacy of Fairness:

Your sense of justice may not be shared widely and is certainly not shared universally. The world may not be fair, or at least it may not always work according to what you feel is fair. Examine your own sense of justice and continue to reconcile it with what happens in the world. The principle of empathy is a good basis for justice. Anger is the emotion that urges us to act on our sense of justice. Choose your battles carefully to make the most constructive use of your limited time, energy, and other resources. Don't harbor resentment at every injustice you perceive, and examine your feelings of self righteousness. Gather evidence to make an informed decision.


Do not be quick to hold others responsible for your pain. Do not blame yourself unjustifiably for the failures of others. Consider a broad range of representative evidence, including the likelihood that there are many causes contributing to each outcome, before drawing a conclusion. See disproportionate responsibility, below.

Disproportionate Responsibility:

(Single causes) Generally many causes contribute to each result, outcome, event, or incident. For example, the causes contributing to an automobile accident can include: design of the automobile, manufacture of the automobile, maintenance of the automobile, design of the road system, weather conditions, driver training, driver preparation, driver attention, choice of vehicle, choice of route, choice of time and schedule, passenger behavior, pedestrians, obstacles, traffic signals, other cars and drivers on the road, and other factors. Be objective when assessing blame or taking credit. Divide the responsibility for the good or the bad result proportionality among each of the contributors, based on how their actions or inactions affected the result. Perhaps you deserve some of the credit or must take some of the blame, but it is unlikely you or they are solely responsible. Don't make the mistake of polarized thinking when assessing responsibility. Don't attribute undue blame to a scapegoat.

Should (counterfactual thinking, imperatives):

Don't get angry every time someone does not act according to your ideal. The word “should” is a plea to behave according to a particular (often implicit) set of values and beliefs. Examine those beliefs, and decide if they really do apply to the person or situation that is irritating you. What is the evidence? What can you change and what can't you change? It is unreasonable to expect that others will act according to your ideal vision of their behavior or role, especially when your preferences are unstated. See the fallacy of change, below.

Emotional Reasoning:

We decide with both our heart and our head. Continue to improve your emotional competency and ensure a healthy and constructive balance of both passion and reason. Exercise impulse control while enjoying the constructive passions of life.

Fallacy of Change:

It is unrealistic to believe you can change other peoples' nature, personality, deeply ingrained habits, or strongly held beliefs. Be realistic about what you can change and what you cannot. Do not depend unrealistically on others for your own well being.

Being Right (denial):

Dogmatically holding onto an opinion, belief, or defending an action can be a destructive result of stubborn pride. Even if you believe you are right, decide if you would rather be right or be happy. Don't waste time pursuing the fallacy of change described above. Examine your sense of justice and the assumptions you are making. Gather evidence to make an informed decision, but even if you are right, it may not be a battle worth fighting. How is this working for you now?

Heaven's Reward Fallacy:

Don't expect every sacrifice you make to be rewarded. Don't play the martyr. You are responsible for your own life, well being, and happiness. Exercise your autonomy and take action because you want to, not because you believe you will mysteriously be rewarded.

Asch Effect:

People often change their opinions to agree with the majority, despite the presence of clear contrary evidence. Experiments conducted by Solomon Asch demonstrated the effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of individual judgment. Experimental subjects often modified their judgment or estimate of an observation to conform with the majority opinion of a group.


The tendency to attribute positive motives to in-group members (especially yourself) and negative motives to out-group members (especially those regarded as “the enemy”).

Global Labelling:

This is the fallacy of overgeneralization, combined with an unrepresentative stereotype. Withhold judgment until you have an opportunity to meet and understand a person as an individual. Do not generalize one or or two qualities into a negative judgment about a person or group.


Human memory is organized into schema which are clusters of knowledge or a general conceptual framework that provides expectations about events, objects, people, and situations in life. For example, if you are asked to describe a bird, you are likely to recall some description (prototype) based on a blend of common specific bird species, or you will recall a specific bird you are familiar with. This attribute of memory leads us to rely on stereotypes. These are simplified and standardized conceptions or images held in common by members of a group. While stereotypes are an essential feature of human memory, they can cause problems when the attributes associated with the group are incorrectly extended to an individual. For example, a common stereotype of a bird includes the ability to fly, however extending that stereotype to a penguin leads to an incorrect conclusion.

Magical Thinking:

Believing that the laws of physics, or the laws of cause and effect, don't apply to you. Believing in miracles or believing that wishful thinking or sheer will alone can cause the outcome you are hoping for are examples of magical thinking, as are appeals to paranormal or supernatural phenomena. Don't let optimism exceed the bounds of reality. Hope is not a strategy.

Assumptions, Opinions, Rumors become fact:

It is easy for assumptions, opinion, or rumors to be accepted as fact. This can happen if these ideas or stories seem reasonable on the surface, or they support your views or interests, if they advance some hoped for outcome, or they are expressed by someone in authority or someone you trust, if the stories are fun to tell, or if others you know also share these beliefs. The incorrect assumption, opinion, and rumor that the earth is the center of the universe went unchallenged by millions of people for perhaps thousands of years. Other rumors and unchallenged assumptions can be even more destructive. When you hear a rumor, take the time to challenge it, identify and examine the source, and get independent confirmation of it before passing it on. Don't accept myths, legends, and other speculations and fiction as fact.

Suggestive Context (perception set):

Sometimes the context in which information is presented is so familiar, or so compelling, that we quickly perceive evidence or draw conclusions without sufficient checking. We then hold firmly to these incorrect conclusions. Here are some examples to try yourself: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Write down your answer. Double check your answer. Now read the correct answer here.

1 comment:

White Stone Name Seeker said...

The way to get through all this is to follow the AA 12 Steps + Serenity prayer.
I sometimes think God put so many alchoholics in my life was to help me do this.