List of Cognitive Errors

Download Cognitive Errors Worksheet


  • When you imagine extreme and awful outcomes to an event.
  • This is often linked with chronic pain, and evidence demonstrates these kinds of thoughts can actually increase the sensation of pain, like pouring gasoline on a small fire.
  • Examples:

"If I can’t finish this work before the end of the day, my boss will fire me and I’ll be unable to find a new job."

“This knee pain is never going to get better, and I’ll live the rest of my life unable to walk or do any of the things I love.”


All or nothing thinking

  • When you see situations as black and white.
  • If one thing goes wrong, the entire situation is now ruined.
  • Example:

"If the DJ plays the wrong song at my wedding, the entire wedding will be ruined"



  • When you see one negative event as a recurring situation.
  • In one negative event, it turns into always or never.
  • Examples:

“My tire went flat today, my car is always giving me problems”

“I asked a girl on a date and she said no, girls never want to go out with me”


Mental Filter

  • When you focus in and dwell on a single negative detail, and cannot consider any of the other details or important points.
  • Example:

“During my review today, my boss said I was doing a great job, however she said that I can improve my penmanship – I’ve been thinking about it for days”


Discounting the positive

  • When you do something well, you think of how you could have done it better, or do not see it as an accomplishment. You do not reward yourself for your good work.
  • Example:

“I ran a 7-minute mile yesterday, I have never done this before but it is not as good as running a 6:30 minute mile”


Jumping to conclusions

  • Concluding there will be negative outcomes to future situations without much information.
  • “Mind reading” or pretending you know the negative thought’s someone else is having about you.
  • Examples:

"I don't want to speak at the work event today, I will probably be terrible and not know what I am talking about"

"Susy did not say 'hi' to me very enthusiastically this morning, she must be really upset with me"


Emotional statements

  • Making negative emotions a reflection of reality
  • Example:

“I feel really guilty for lying to my spouse, I must be a terrible person”


“Should” reasoning

  • Assuming that the world or situations should be different than they actually are by upholding certain expectations for yourself or others. These can lead to shame or guilt.
  • Example:

“I should have called my mother today, how could I have forgotten? I’m such a terrible son/daughter.”



  • Attaching a negative label to a person rather than a situation when they make a mistake or exhibit a certain behavior. This causes for an association between the situation and the person’s character rather than their thinking or behavior.
  • Example:

“I am so dumb, I mistook this salt for sugar”


Personalization and blame

  • This includes taking responsibility for things that are you are not entirely at fault for, or for blaming others entirely for something that you might have a part in.
  • Examples:

“My spouse does not appreciate me, I must not be a good partner”

“My spouse is totally unreasonable, it’s his fault that we fight all of the time”