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5 Dangerous Thinking Traps That Pull Us to the Very Bottom

You can say that human actions and behavior are guided by reason and logic. However, if you dig a little deeper, it turns out that the rationality of people is quite exaggerated. Because of the love for labels and templates, and most importantly, the desire for saving resources, the brain of any individual, even the most sane and intellectually developed, is subject to all kinds of cognitive distortions that imperceptibly spoil life.

We were pretty impressed with how thinking mistakes can leave our lifestyle if we don’t recognize them in time and fight them. Therefore, we have selected the most common of them to understand their impact on you.

Halo effect

The halo effect consists in a biased general impression of a person (object, phenomenon), which is built on the basis of just one trait of their character, a characteristic or appearance given to them by someone. The most striking embodiment of this effect is the so-called physical attractiveness stereotype. According to it, people tend to unwittingly ascribe socially desirable traits to outwardly pleasant people. Simply put, it may seem that a nice person will be kind, smart, pleasant to talk to, even if there is no direct evidence of this yet.

The danger of this trap is that it suppresses the ability to clearly see the interlocutor (or situation) and critically evaluate his behavior. As a result, you can be mistaken for a long time about someone’s intentions and trust someone you shouldn’t.

Abilene paradox

This paradox manifests itself in groups of people and lies in the fact that, due to the fear of each individual participant to voice their preferences, the group as a whole is ultimately inclined to make a decision that in fact does not suit anyone. This can often be found in the office team. For example, when everyone thinks that they will look like a bad employee and a lazy person if they speak out against the Saturday shift, and in the end everyone agrees to go to work on the weekend, although no one wanted to.

The reason for such incidents lies only in insufficient communication between people. Therefore, you can avoid misunderstandings thanks to straightforwardness and frankness.

Mind reading

This cognitive distortion is, perhaps, to a certain extent familiar to absolutely every person. It lies in the fact that we tend to believe that we know exactly what other people think of us. And most often we are sure that they think badly of us. Worst of all, if you don’t pull yourself up in time, such conviction can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

By giving free rein to these fantasies, the individual becomes not only more prone to erroneous judgments about people and their motives, but also prone to bouts of excessive anxiety, which can quickly lead to nervous exhaustion.

Faith in favor of self-criticism

Yes, believing in self-criticism and that it is an effective way to motivate yourself to do new things is also just a common trap in thinking. Which only leads to feelings of guilt and nervous breakdowns.

The point is that self-criticism is nothing more than one of the main aspects of low self-esteem. Negative self-talk also triggers another cognitive distortion – negative filtering, in which a person begins to cut off any positive information about a given situation and concentrates only on the bad. In the case of self-criticism, they begin to question all his successes and achievements and focus only on failure, generalizing: “I am failing!”

False consensus effect

In contrast to the Abilene paradox, the false consensus effect is not associated with the fear of the inconsistency of one’s thoughts with others, but, on the contrary, with attributing one’s opinion and worldview to the majority. So, we often say the phrases “everyone does this” or “the majority lives like this”, meaning personal attitudes and beliefs, although this is not supported by statistics.

It is interesting that the opposite opinion and the lack of consensus, at the same time, makes a person think that others are in some way inferior. Accordingly, being at the mercy of this cognitive distortion makes it more difficult for the individual to learn, think critically and accept someone else’s point of view, even when it is better reasoned than one’s own.