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How to Identify Thinking Errors?

Thinking errors are the little nuggets of flawed thinking that sneak into our brains, and lead us to make irrational decisions. 

Thinking errors are unhelpful thinking habits. They are also known as cognitive distortions or cognitive biases. A thinking error or bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in specific situations. The pattern can be either irrational, or logical but based on an inaccurate perception of the situation.

Our minds are geared to find patterns from past experiences and make predictions on how future experiences will be the same. But sometimes our minds make incorrect assumptions, and this can lead to thinking errors or cognitive distortions. 

Thinking errors can be useful as they act as a shortcut to finding what works and what doesn’t. They help us to react quickly to things that are familiar to us. However, they can lead to thinking errors, such as jumping to conclusions or believing stereotypes. 

Thinking errors can cause us to think that we are always right, even when our ideas are completely wrong.

These errors or biases prevent people from living happier live. They make people feel and act in unhelpful ways.

People often think they are thinking rationally but in reality they are making irrational decisions.

Here are some of the most common thinking errors.

Polarized Thinking

A lot of people tend to think in black and white terms, which is sometimes referred to as polarized thinking, dichotomous thinking, or either/or thinking. 

It is the tendency to view things in absolute extremes, as if there are no other alternatives. It is a kind of oversimplification, in which the middle ground is often neglected. People with this kind of thinking may believe that they are right or that their way is the only way. 

Those kinds of thoughts can lead to unnecessary conflicts or disagreements, and often times people do not realize that they are over simplifying things. These kinds of thoughts and behaviors are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but they can lead to a lot of problems.


Catastrophizing bias is when we think that something will be worse than it actually will be. When you have a test on Monday, you may worry that you will fail your test. It is important to realize that you are over-thinking things. 

You will have a test on Monday, and it will be a test. It won't be the end of the world, but it also won't be the end of the week. When you realize this, you will be able to relax and study for the test.

Mind Reading

Do you ever feel that someone is judging you in a negative way, even though they may not have been? If the answer is yes, you may be experiencing a common error in thinking known as the Mind Reading bias. 

This bias occurs when we ascribe to someone a belief that they do not necessarily hold. The Mind Reading bias is particularly evident in situations where we expect someone to behave in a certain way. We may immediately assume that they are judging us in that particular way, without having any evidence to support our beliefs.


Overgeneralizing means filtering out important information and details when making a decision. It is the process of using a single piece of information to make a blanket judgment about an entire situation, project, person, or event. It is a thinking error that can lead to problems in many areas of life. 

When a decision is made based on an overgeneralization, it means that the person making the decision did not take into account all of the relevant information, which can have negative consequences.

Emotional reasoning 

The human brain is a pattern-searching device. If you show someone pictures of several angry or happy faces, their brain can spot the difference between them with great accuracy. However, when it comes to our own emotions, we are prone to misjudging the causes of our feelings. 

Emotions come from within, but we often misattribute them to something in the outside world. We assume that our feelings reflect the way things really are, and then we take actions based on that faulty foundation.

Jumping to conclusions

Jumping to conclusions is the incorrect assumption of a situation without having all the relevant facts. 

This thinking error occurs because people are tempted to make assumptions about their lives, the people around them, and their future.


Thinking errors (also known as cognitive distortions or cognitive biases) are patterns in thinking that lead us to make mistakes in reasoning. These errors are common in human thinking; everyone makes them to some degree, and the most effective way to counteract them is to become aware of them.


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