Common Cognitive Errors

There are seven common cognitive errors in which individuals engage particularly when they are under stress or faced with difficult situations.  I have included these cognitive errors in a chart below.   While these errors can be present in a large number of situations, I thought sharing these here at this moment in time might be beneficial to those who are in a current state of lock-down in this country as you do not want to approach any situation based on erroneous thinking.  The following chart is copied in a modified form from Trafton, Gordon, and Misra (2019, p. 82).


Thinking Error Description
Overgeneralization Assuming that the outcome from a specific event or situation will occur in a large range of situations.
Catastrophizing Focusing only on the worst, most extreme possibility regardless of how likely it is to occur.
All-or-None Thinking Focusing on only the extreme “best” or “worst” of a situation without regard to the full range of alternatives.
Jumping to Conclusion Interpreting a situation with limited information and without a rational evaluation of its likelihood.
Selective Attention Selectively attending to negative aspects of a situation while ignoring any positive aspects.
Negative Predictions Assuming the worst will happen in a situation.
Mind Reading Assuming what people are thinking instead of finding out what they are really thinking.

In times of stress, it can be easy to revert to maladaptive forms of thinking.  How many of these cognitive errors have you been guilty of lately?  Maybe it is time to renew your mind.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 English Standard Version).



Trafton, J. A., Gordon, W. P., & Misra, S. (2019).  Training your brain to adopt healthful habits: Mastering the five brain challenges (3rd ed.).  Los Altos, CA: Institute for Brain Potential.


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