Can you say, “fake news”? Or “leading statements”?
Or “inferences based on limited information or examples”?
In their book The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt examine nine cognitive distortions that “interfere with realistic and adaptive interpretations” of events and situations. The nine challenges are (with the authors’ explanations beneath each; see page 38 of their book):
- Emotional Reasoning
o Feelings guide interpretation of reality
o Focusing on the worst possible outcome and seeing it as most likely
o Perceiving a pattern based on a single incident
- Dichotomous Thinking
o Viewing events in all-or-nothing terms; binary thinking
- Mind Reading
o Assuming you know what people think without having enough evidence
o Assigning global negative traits to yourself or others
- Negative Filtering
o Focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives
- Discounting Positives
o Claiming that the positive things you or others do are trivial
o Focusing on the other person as the source of your negative feelings
While Lukianoff and Haidt examine how these distortions can and do have a chilling effect on higher education, it is easy to see how they play out daily in current events and reactions to those events. Can you say, “fake news”? Or “leading statements”? Or “inferences based on limited information or examples”?
We can see this with ideologues. Whatever “those” ideologues do (according to “these” ideologues on the “other” side of the spectrum) will lead to utter destruction (catastrophizing), because “those people” never listen to the correct sources (mind reading, labeling), and because they clearly are not one of us (dichotomous thinking), they will lead to nothing but the worst consequences for our society (blaming, negative filtering, overgeneralizing).
I’d venture to say that we all engage in these distortions from time to time. Think about the different tone our political debates would have if we checked these distortions at the door. Heck, the so-called debates might turn from yelling and screaming matches to actual debates—give and take with a whole lot of listening and authentic questioning.
This week be alert for the above cognitive distortions in others and yourself. As Lukianoff and Haidt posit, “Wouldn’t our relationships be better if we all did a little less blaming and dichotomous thinking, and recognized that we usually share responsibility for conflicts?”
Video Recommendation of the Week:
In this CBS interview, the two authors address the great “untruths” that help set the context for cognitive distortions.
Make it an inspiring and grateful week and H.T.R.B. as needed.
For information about and to order my book, Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here. A few colleges and one state-wide agency have adopted it for training and coaching purposes. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same.
The paperback price on Amazon is now $12.00 and the Kindle version stands at $3.99. Consider it for a faculty orientation or a mentoring program. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.
©2019. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®