Tag Archives: Thought

Quotationism, how spurious and misattributed quotations do harm.

7 Oct

This morning, Cristian Mihai’s blog leads with a quotation from Picasso:

“Every Child is an Artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

There is a small problem here; Picasso never said or wrote those words. I am bothered by the proliferation of spurious and misattributed quotations. I actually believe that this practice is both a result and a cause of sloppy thinking:

1. A misattributed quotation is unfair to the person who actually wrote the words, we are denying credit to the actual creator. It is also unfair to the person falsely credited. It is putting words into someone’s mouth.

2. Spurious quotations are  variations of the logical fallacy,  argument of from authority. By assigning some proposition to a respected figure we call all too easily justify our existing prejudices. Sometimes this reaches absurd levels. Mother Teresa never said: “Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” Indeed, this bit of very American self help advice, does not even remotely sound like like something she would have written.  Also, notice that Mother Teresa is given a moral authority that she may not actually deserve.

3. Certainly, it is legitimate to quote someone to show the source of an idea or to repeat a particularly pithy or cogent expression of a thought. But, quotationism is often a substitute for real thought and real analysis. Why bother to go back and read a great thinker in the original when it all be reduced to a hackneyed sentence? The fact that so many writers will pass on a quotation without checking it for accuracy (something one can now easily do with Google Books) is appalling.


Generating Alternative Thoughts

6 Oct

One of the goals of cognitive behavior therapy is to help us move away from maladaptive thinking. Sometimes our beliefs keep us in a state of paralysis and prevent us from adopting new behaviors.

Here is an abstract for a paper about a technique for  generate alternative thoughts as a means to break the out of our self limiting beliefs. Unfortunately, the paper itself is in Turkish and I yet have not been able to locate an English translation.

“Introduction: One of the basic techniques of cognitive therapy is examination of automatic thoughts and reducing the belief in them. By employing this, we can overcome the cognitive bias apparent in mental disorders. Despite this view, according to another cognitive perspective in a given situation, there are distinct cognitive representations competing for retrieval from memory just like positive and negative schemas. In this sense generating or strengthening alternative explanations or balanced thoughts that explain the situation better than negative automatic thoughts is one of the important process goals of cognitive therapy.

Objective: Aim of this review is to describe methods used to generate alternative/balanced thoughts that are used in examining automatic thoughts and also a part of automatic thought records. Alternative/balanced thoughts are the summary and end point of automatic thought work. In this text different ways including listing alternative thoughts, using examining the evidence for generating balanced thoughts, decatastrophizing in anxiety and a meta-cognitive method named two explanations are discussed. Different ways to use this technique as a homework assignment is also reviewed. Remarkable aspects of generating alternative explanations and realistic/balanced thoughts are also reviewed and exemplified using therapy transcripts.

Conclusion: Generating alternative explanations and balanced thoughts are the end point and important part of therapy work on automatic thoughts. When applied properly and rehearsed as homework between sessions, these methods may lead to improvement in many mental disorders.” (source)

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