15 Cognitive Distortions (+PDF)

This blogspot will be based on the question “what are the 15 cognitive distortions?”. It will enlist the 15 cognitive distortions, it will elaborate the 15 cognitive distortions and give examples from daily life to explain them better. 

What are the 15 cognitive distortions?

Following are the 15 cognitive distortions:

  • Black and white thinking
  • Overgeneralization
  • Mental filtering
  • Mind reading
  • Should and musts
  • Labelling
  • Catastrophizing
  • Personalization
  • Blaming
  • Controlled Fallacies
  • Fallacy of fairness
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Fallacy of change
  • Global reasoning
  • Being Right
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

Black and white thinking cognitive distortion

The black and white thinking cognitive distortion is also known as all or nothin cognitive distortion or polarized thinking cognitive distortion. It is based on the fact that a person tends to think between the two poles. They judge people and events on two extremes of good or bad, love or hate and like or dislike. 

Under black and white cognitive distortion individuals fail to consider the greys in any situation. The greatest damage that balck and white thinking can do to a person due to dichotomous thinking patterns is evaluation of self as a successful person or a complete failure.

Overgeneralization cognitive distortion

The overgeneralization cognitive distortions is based on associating a single negative conclusion of an event to one’s all of the life events. The overgeneralization occurs by making the person consider his/her life as an ultimate defeat with absolute negative consequences using the words like “always” and “never”.

For example a depressed student going to school gets struck in a traffic jam on his test day and thinks that his life is always a mess.

Mental filtering cognitive distortion

The mental filtering cognitive distortion is based on dwelling on all the negative experiences of life exclusively. This cognitive distortion tends to darken the vision of an individual’s life as the individual fails to consider the positive aspects of life.  

It is similar to adding a drop of colored water to a glass of water, that spreads throughout the water and changes its colors forever.

Individuals under this cognitive distortion tend to strain out the positive aspects of their life and depend exclusively on all the negative experiences.

For example a teacher at the parent teacher meeting praises your child in all areas across all subjects. However at the end of the meeting the teacher mentions an area for improvement. After going home, you forget all the positives and scold your child for the only area for improvement that the teacher mentioned.

Jumping to conclusions cognitive distortion (Mind Reading)

Under the jumping to conclusions cognitive distortion an individual tends to draw baseless negative conclusions for all aspects in life. The jumping to conclusions cognitive distortion is based on mind reading and fortune prediction.

The mind reading cognitive distortion suggests that a person tends to associate negativity to someone else’s behavior with them without any evidence. Mind readers do not pay attention to the events and jump to the final result that the other person is being inappropriate or behaving unreasonably with them only because they think so.

The fortune telling cognitive distortion suggests a prediction for negative events to occur in future. Before starting something new in life or while moving towards a new phase, a person may predict something based on their negative thinking patterns and then believe it to be true.

An example of mind reading would be a student taking scolding of  the teacher scolding the whole class personally because he usually doesn’t score well in class.

An example of fortune telling would be a student going for internship interview and assuming that he will never make it to end.

Should and musts cognitive distortion

The should and musts cognitive distortion is also known as musterbation. A person’s life with this type of cognitive distortion is struck among “shoulds”, “musts” and “ought to be”.  An individual under this cognitive distortion believes that life should move on the way they have planned it to go and things must happen the way they want them to happen.

For example a student who has been a good scorer in life strongly believes that he must always win a medal our else life is not worth living.

Labelling cognitive distortion

The labeling cognitive distortion makes a person associate negative characteristics to the self or others.under this cognitive distortion individuals attach labels to themselves based on any negative experience in life. Instead of considering their mistakes and areas for improvement they consider themselves  a failure or a loser.

An example of labeling cognitive distortion is a girl practicing dance moves wearing wrong shoes. She falls and has a sprain in foot just before the final performance and labels herself a “loser” .

Catastrophizing cognitive distortion (Magnification or Minimization)

The catastrophizing cognitive distortion is also known as magnification/minimization cognitive distortion. Under the cognitive distortion a person tends to magnify a problem or tends to minimize the positive aspects of life.

The catastrophizing cognitive distortion is usually based on “what if” questions. Whenever an uncertain event strikes a person with catastrophizing cognitive distortion they start expecting a disaster and think “what if a tragedy strikes?”. They start questioning themselves as if the tragedy has already occured and they are going through the negative consequences as sufferers of the tragedy.

For example lockdown  is expected in a country due to pandemic. A person with catastrophizing cognitive distortion would have inpaired adaptive function due to the repeated negative thinking about any major tragedy happening like  “What if i have coronavirus?”, “what if i run out of food supplies?”.

Personalization cognitive distortion

Personalization cognitive distortion is a person’s ability to relate everything negative or uncertain happening around them to themselves. Individual’s under this cognitive distortion tend to compare their existence with those around them with a question for their worth. Such individuals have a capacity to evaluate each event as a clue to their self worth and value. This cognitive distortion often results in feelings of guilt and shame in the individual.

For example a father with personalization cognitive distortion would go to a party with kids and the kids fight with each other. The father believes that he is not a good father and devalues his self worth instead of looking into the matter.

Blaming cognitive distortion

Blaming cognitive distortion is opposite to the personalization of cognitive distortion. An individual under blaming cognitive distortion tends to hold others responsible for any uncertain unassumed event in life. They take no responsibility for the negative events happening in their life and tend to project all the negative life experiences upon others.

For example a husband blames all the lackings in a relationship onto the wife and takes no responsibility for distorted patterns in relationship himself. 

Controlled Fallacies cognitive distortion (the fallacy of internal control and the fallacy of external control)

The controlled fallacy cognitive distortion is based on external control fallacy and internal control fallacy. It is based on the ways that distort an individual’s power and control over a scenario. 

The fallacy of external control makes an individual think of himself/herself as helpless. Such individuals have a strong belief that fate has already been decided and nothing can undo fate. They thus believe themselves to be the poor victims of fate.

The  example of the fallacy of external control is if a student could not make his synopsis before the final submission date. Instead of admitting his lack of time management and the daly in completion of assigned tasks, the student will rather feel helpless about himself that he has been overburdened by other life tasks and university assignments.

The fallacy of internal control on the other hands tends to make the person think of himself/herself as a reason for the other people’s pain and happiness. They strongly believe that their actions determine the lives of people around them. Such individuals think that their actions determine indirectly or directly the life of people around them.

The example of fallacy of internal control is a girl making all the dishes for a dinner party and ignoring her exams. She believes that if she will not cook for dinner parties it will be a source of humiliation and pain for the family.

Fallacy of fairness cognitive distortion

The fallacy of fairness cognitive distortion is based on absolute parameters of fairness that are set in light of one’s own negative judgment and evaluation of life events.the fairness parameters set by an individual under fallacy of cognitive distortion are usually self serving. 

An individual with this type of cognitive distortion often feels that others are being unjust as only they know what is fair. Such individuals often feel displeased as people around them do not agree to what they think is fair.

An example of fallacy of fairness is a wife comes home from work and does not perform any house chore demanding that she has been at work and the husband who also returned from work shall be performing all house chores as she is tired.

Emotional reasoning cognitive distortion

The emotional reasoning cognitive distortion makes an individual find irrationale and unjust emotional reasoning to support their negative thinking and negative actions in life. Based on the distorted thoughts and feelings, an individual’s emotions become distorted. Such a person tends to believe that their negative emotions actually describe the true picture of the existence or occurrence of events.

For example emotional reasoning is quite visible when one of the sisters is gifted a pretty doll on her birthday and the other sister believes that she is unloved by the parents and she is ugly. 

Fallacy of change cognitive distortion

The fallacy of change cognitive distortion makes a person believe that if they pressurize or manipulate the other person enough, they will change in their favour. Such people think that inorder to meet their expectations and suit their demands, the people around them will change the way they think or behave.

For example a son who is very outgoing and has an extrovert personality is kept from going out and participating in sports events as his mother does not like being social and wants all the time and love of the only son she has.

Global reasoning cognitive distortion (global labeling)

Global reasoning cognitive distortion tends to consider any negative qualities in self or others as being absolute. It tends to create a stereotyped view of the world with negative attributes of the self and others as being concrete. Labeling yourself and others as negative can further have negative impacts on social, personal and professional relationships.

For example, a colleague of you says an additional prayer before going to the final appraisal meeting and you label her something very negative.

Being always right cognitive distortion

Being always right cognitive distortion tends to push an individual to see their judgments and evaluations as absolute reality of life. They do not have any regard for the evidence that does not support their facts and assumptions. Such individuals believe their views about others and the world as the absolute reality and consider them as facts of life.

An example of being always right is a father pressuring his son to become an engineer because he is a son of an engineer and being a father he knows the best best for his son.

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy cognitive distortion

People under heaven’s reward fallacy cognitive distortion usually play the role of a martyr in life. They think that they have sacrificed so much in life and so much uncertainty and unjust has already happened so that is their right now to have reward in life. Such individuals do not consider the fact that what they believed to be right was often not exactly the right thing. 

For example a student might think that throughout life his parents have loved his elder brother more so it’s his right to get admitted in top university on merit.


The present blogspot answered the question “what are 15 cognitive distortions?”. We learned the names of 15 cognitive distortions, how they occur among individuals and their daily routine examples from life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) : 15 Cognitive Distortions

Is cognitive distortion a mental illness?

No cognitive distortion is not a mental illness itself. However, it tends to lie basis for many other mental illnesses and their associated features. For example black and white thinking is a strong feature of personality disorders and overgeneralization is a strong feature of depression.

What is a cognitive distortion?

Cognitive distortion is a distorted pattern of thinking. It involves errorful thinking by focusing on usually negative life events of self, other and the world. It is also known as “stinkin thinkin”

Can cognitive distortion be corrected?

Yes, cognitive distortion can be corrected by breaking down the underlying schemas. However it takes professional help and a lot of unlearning and effort.






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