More Thought Distortions: Filtering, Generalising And Jumping To Conclusion

More on thought distortions. Finally, in this series, on thought distortions, let us look at:


We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.

For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

Black and White Thinking

It is also known as “Either/Or Thinking” or Polarized Thinking.

In polarized thinking, things are either-or.” We have to be perfect or we are a failure (excellence eludes us) — there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of grey or allowing for the complexity of each situation. If your performance is not perfect, you see yourself as a dumb ass failure.


In this style of thinking, we come to the conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern

Jumping To Conclusions

Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.

For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but does not actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.


We expect disaster, no matter what. This is also referred to as “awfulizing, magnifying or minimizing.”

We hear about a problem and use what-if questions (e.g., “What if tragedy strikes?” “What if it happens to me?”). For example, a person might exaggerate the importance of insignificant events (such as their mistake or someone else’s achievement). Or they may inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events until they appear tiny (for example, a person’s own desirable qualities or someone else’s imperfections).

It is a good idea to check yourselves for these and the other sets of thought distortions discussed in earlier posts.

So until next time Imagine Yourself with more Resiliency for Life.

Michael H. Ballard

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