Filosofy on Friday – Over-generalisation


Your Frothy Filosofer has been less frothy of late, more like a cappuccino that’s been put to one side and forgotten. But stuff is still going on in the depths.  I had an amazing trip to Tucson, my first (and hopefully not last) visit to the USA. So the journey and recovery time – not helped by a bout of coughing and sneezing – has meant less time for filosofising.

Today I want to get back on track with our journey through thinking errors, and we arrive at over-generalisation. This occurs when we make judgements based on single events. When we find ourselves using words like never, always, no-one and everyone, this should alert us to the possibility that we are becoming biased in our thinking. For example, how often do we find that the traffic lights are against us when we are in a hurry? “It’s always the same”. Clearly there are times when it is not the case, but our biased thinking prevents us from accessing memories of when the “rule” did not apply.

We can think of situations where we want help or advice from other people. Imagine you are looking for somewhere in a big city and you approach someone for help. The first person ignores you and the second person says they are in too much of a rush to help. You might conclude that “everyone” in this city is unfriendly and unhelpful, based on a sample of two. You might approach 50 people before you find someone who is helpful, but once you have this evidence it is no longer true to say that “everyone” is unhelpful. You might rephrase the conclusion as “Most people are unhelpful”. Herein lies the clue to challenging this particular cognitive bias – i.e. look for the exceptions.

If you have the belief that “Everything I do is wrong”, you need to find only one example of something not going wrong in order to change the belief – e.g., “A lot of what I do goes wrong, but there are times I get it right”. These slight shifts in belief can bring large shifts in our emotional reactions, and impact on our future behaviour. If we truly believe we are useless, we will engage in a lot of avoidance, and thereby never gain the experience to develop competencies.

6 thoughts on “Filosofy on Friday – Over-generalisation

  1. Welcome back from your trip! I hope you didn’t beat the tar out of anyone in your martial arts thingy while you were there! (I know. I watched Karate Kid one too many times. 😀 I also hope you had a blast. Can’t wait to hear a bit about it if you care to share. In the meantime, I SO get this one. Being aware of it has made a big difference in my responses to others. Unfortunately I’m still waiting for it to sink in to my own self-talk. But I’ll get there eventually. Maybe. I’m always so dense when it comes to understanding this stuff! 😉

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments. I’m behind the curve again – just getting to this week’s exciting frothy installment! I loved the people in Arizona, so friendly and helpful. I did not hurt anyone, all ver controlled. We went to a pistol shooting range and the instructor said I was more of a danger to myself than anyone else!
      No way are you “dense” in any sense!

      1. LOL about the shooting range. Your first time with a weapon I take it? Drollery has tried to teach me to shoot both his rifle and his pistol, but the recoil gets me every time. He wants me to be able to defend myself, so I keep a weighted golf swing trainer behind the bedroom door. I’m far less likely to kill myself with that! But it’ll knock the stuffins out of anyone I hit with it! 😀

        SO glad you had a good time. Hope you get to come again. We’re planning a retirement cruise around the British Isles in 2017. I’ve waited all my life to get there. So excited.

      2. Seems so far away, but I feel like I’ve been called there my whole life. Think I was a bar maid by day, pirate captain by night in Cornwall in a previous life! : D

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