I was asked by my professor to give a presentation on the topic "Cognitive biases and distortions" and during my prep I had this question. Could anyone please shed some light?

I tried finding more regarding the difference but I am yet to find "cognitive biases vs distortions" I have only found "cognitive biases and distortions". Going by definitions it seems to me that distortions might be a subset of biases but i'm not at all sure. The counter argument to this for me is maybe biases are more about what we see and distortions about how we interpret it .



1 Answer 1


Wikipedia has articles on both of these terms, so that would be one place to start. Although you may not be able to cite Wikipedia as a source, both of these articles have good References sections.

Here are the Wikipedia definitions (emphasis added):

  • Cognitive bias: "a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment."
  • Cognitive distortion: "an exaggerated or irrational thought pattern involved in the onset or perpetuation of psychopathological states, such as depression and anxiety."

So both of these terms apply to thought patterns that deviate from a theoretical rational standard. But cognitive distortions apply specifically to states considered psychologically abnormal, while cognitive biases refer to properties of human thinking that tend to affect everyone. The examples given in the articles seem to support this distinction.

As you mentioned, cognitive distortions could be seen as a subset of cognitive biases, specifically the subset that leads to psychopathological conditions.

  • $\begingroup$ I had an idea, maybe biases are about us ignoring a part of the total information or facts available and distortions are about us interpreting or processing the availlable facts in the wrong way. ANY COMMENTS?? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ @user14812745 I don't think that distinction is generally true. For example, confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias in which people tend to promote information that confirms their preconceptions and discredit information that goes against their beliefs. So they acknowledge the available information, but they interpret information differently depending on whether it supports their argument. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Yup I understand your viewpoint , appreciate your effort trying to answer my question. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 12:43

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