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In CBT they tell you to challenge automatic thoughts. So say someone doesn't say hello to you, then you think he doesn't like me. CBT says to challenge this and maybe you realize that he didn't see you actually.

I have a more philosophical question in such sense. CBT assumes that at some point we are generating wrong ideas (automatic thoughts) and later we are able to correct them ourselves. My question is, if we are able to correct them, why are we generating the wrong ideas in the first place? What is the mechanism that allows this to happen? Which mind processes are in play here? Concious/unconcious?

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    $\begingroup$ The Wikipedia page of irrationality has a list of such reasons. Does that answer you? $\endgroup$ – Ooker Jun 30 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ For the future reader, CBT = Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. $\endgroup$ – Ignat Insarov Dec 2 at 21:40
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I suspect we adopt irrational positions when we have an implicit choice available and our frame of mind, owing to biological factors such as stress hormone levels, favors rapid choices over thoughtful reflection on the circumstances we face. Dual process theory provides a decent framework for thinking about this.

There is a remarkable body of literature examining paranoid ideation and social anxiety produced by D. Freeman which examines something along these lines experimentally. Attributional styles seem to be learned, then reinforced by exposure to stressful situations. Sort of a "feedback loop" of distorted cognition.

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Here are some reasons I collected that can explain why we have wrong ideas:

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They are learned thinking patterns, schemas.

We can't give our cognitive attention to more than one thing at a time so most of our thinking is automatic, relying on pattern matching to previous experience. We have algorithms or heuristics for most events and objects and people and inputs. They are the things we "know". Much of the time they're right.

Conscious and unconscious don't really have any meaning here.

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  • $\begingroup$ would unconscious be the same with the one we can't put our attention at and must use automatic thinking? Also, does learned thinking pattern the same with schema? $\endgroup$ – Ooker Jun 30 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think unconscious and automatic are coming from the same place. We are conscious of the thought which is immediate and automatic. Most of out thinking is like this. $\endgroup$ – amaca Jun 30 at 18:54

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