Fallacies you didn’t know your mind was committing

Written by: Dain Hong / Communication & Anxiety / April 2019

The majority of us like to believe that our thought process is logical and thus leads us to the most accurate representation of reality. The truth is, however, that our mind convinces us of something that has little supporting evidence. These beliefs take root in our minds through our subjective experiences and reinforce negative thoughts and emotions, which add greater negativity to our self-perception. Since these beliefs become a lens through which we engage with the world, we don’t question its validity. In fact, they may have become second nature to us that we may not even have attempted to use words to describe these faulty beliefs. 

First fallacy: Filtering

An individual committing this fallacy sees only the few negative aspects of an event, and filters out the reigning positive. As they are focused exclusively on the disagreeable detail, they cannot see the good things about the whole. 


An example of this would be a speaker who reflects on her presentation and feels she has overused her filler words (i.e. like, um, so). Although the fillers occupied less than 5% of her productions, her mind multiplies this usage by 10 to take away her attention from the valuable content she covered, the audience-engagement she facilitated, and the positive feedback she received post-presentation. Despite her objective skills as a presenter, she is unable to see the impact she makes as her focus is on the negative 5%. 

Second fallacy: Polarized Thinking

This fallacy is also understood as “black and white” thinking. One who engages in polarized thinking sees only two extremes, and either/or and all-or-nothing would be common words to describe their thought processes. Asthere is no room for gray, details and complexity are erased. 


Another speaker may be falling for this trap when he begins comparing his own public speech to Steve Jobs’ presentation of the iPhone, and feels like a failure. Because his speech did not reach his expectation, he deems he has completed bombed it. His all-or-nothing mindset makes him oblivious to the stages within presentation skill development, preventing him from identifying his areas of weaknesses and strengths, and moving towards his goal. 

Third fallacy: Overgeneralization

When an individual overgeneralizes, they make a general conclusion based on a one-time experience. A single bad incident leads them to believe that it would happen every time. 


Continuing the theme of presentations, a speaker may feel that because she received criticism from one audience member regarding her presentation, the entire audience probably feels that way. Going forward, she may fear similar opportunities, convinced that she would be criticized again. 


Fourth fallacy: Jumping to Conclusions

An individual engages in this fallacy when they are convinced they can read the mind of others, understanding how they feel and why they feel that way. Such fallacy can also manifest as fortune-telling where one foresees how their life will play out and feel powerless about changing it. 


For instance, a speaker in front of an audience may notice in people what he perceives to be signs of disengagement and disrespect: reduced eye contact, limited nodding and smiling, and occasional chuckles. Meanwhile, these same audience members could be focusing intently on the content, taking notes on their laptops or notebook, and relating with the jokes the speaker is sharing. However, because the speaker takes that his colleagues are uninterested— if not jeering at him— he may feel underappreciated and thus limit himself in his collegial interactions. This thought may then lead him to feel that he would never be able to build trust with his work mates.

Positive thoughts, positive behaviors

Overall, cognitive fallacies wrongly convince us of an alternate reality—one in which we are a personal failure and a societal reject. Focusing exclusively on the negative rarely moves us in the direction towards positive transformation. We must identify the fallacies we are committing, find evidence to refute them, and replace it with balanced thinking. Such a habit is changed through intentional and repetitive rebuttals; and in time, the fallacies lose validity and rational thoughts take over. 

Book an appointment today to discover more about the fallacies you have fallen into, and gain dominance over your mind. 

To speak with one of the speech-language pathologists at Well Said: Toronto Speech Therapy, schedule an initial consultation by clicking the link below or calling (647) 795-5277.