Jumping to Conclusions

Thinking clearly is a very difficult task. If it were easy, we would be more like the Vulcans from Star Trek. Cognitive errors help us to think and reflect with more clarity about situations and outcomes. Ultimately knowing about cognitive errors helps in cognitive restructuring which is a tool used by CBT therapists. Cognitive restructuring

helps to not inadvertently set off our fight or flight responses by allowing us to assess our risks more accurately. So without further ado and for no particular reason, this post will focus on:

Jumping to Conclusions

This form of cognitive error is an extrapolation without sufficient information. (with emphasis on sufficient)

In psychology, it is subdivided into 3 or so categories

  • Mindreading
  • Fortune-telling
  • Labeling

Mindreading: “Knowing” what others believe (especially about you).

A very typical example is the assumption that others believe you to be unattractive or that some behavior signifies something bad (about you/directed at you). A great example would be a friend who is acting awkward is doing so because of something you did or is mad at you etc… It could be, but you simply don’t have the info to warrant the conclusion

Fortunetelling: I “know” what’s going to happen (and it won’t be good for me)

An example of this is “knowing” you failed that test you just took. Again, you may very well have, but you didn’t get the paper back and you may have done better than your initial assessment

Labeling: This is a(n) [insert negative word]

This is the art of attaching a loaded word or idea in describing an event or object.

An example of this would be labeling something a tragedy, when it isn’t. This distortion is better defined as an overgeneralization or mis-labeling. This distortion has the tendency of being “the most wrong” since the label is by definition incorrect.

With regards to OCD, I have found that fortune-telling to be my biggest problem out of the descriptions above. Whenever there was some type of somatic discomfort, I would almost automatically anticipate a panic attack. Through CBT and ERP in particular (through forced hyperventilation exercises) I got comfortable with being uncomfortable.

2 responses to “Jumping to Conclusions”

  1. Herb Schaffler says :

    We have to stay with the discomfort and let it diminish on its own. When we try to get rid of the discomfort (performing a compulsion) we make the worry worse in the long run. By not giving in to the discomfort, we rewire our brains and the obsession diminishes.

    • The Scrupulous Atheist says :

      Very true. That’s the basis of ERP. Cognitive restructuring is a little different though and very useful too. Combined with ERP one has CBT proper. The combination is what gives CBT its power over anxiety disorders as it attacks neural pathways that lead to limbic responses and the limbic system itself. Right now analgesic medication has two ways of combating pain (at the receptor and at the pain signal) CBT is similar.

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