Sports Psychology
Examples of Faulty Heuristics

    There are many ways that our thinking processes can become distorted and cause us to suffer needlessly.  It is very beneficial to be able to recognize these distortions, because we can then catch ourselves in the act of thinking poorly, and correct it.  This list exists because everyone experiences such distortions from time to time, and athletes, particularly, are subject to situations that often lead to distorted thinking.  (The stressors in athletic competition and the apparent role of the individual in group success or failure often leads to unrealistic expectations that create distorted thought processes.) (I often say that the only thing all coaches have in common is paranoia.)  Those who most effectively recognize their distortions and correct them quickly are most likely to succeed in difficult circumstances.  As you read through this list, ask yourself which distorted thought processes you experience most often.  Also, ask yourself, "What are the ways a person could avoid or correct this particular thought pattern?"  (It's the assignment at the end, you know.)

Faulty Heuristic
Seeing only the extremes in a situation
"If I had made that shot, I'd be a hero.  Since I missed it, I'm the worst player ever."
Drawing huge conclusions that don't fit the evidence
"I must be a lousy golfer, because I missed that easy putt.  I never get a break!"
Mental Filter
Focusing on one negative detail and ignoring the "big picture"
"I know we won the game and I played well, but that one block I missed ruined it for me."
Disqualifying the Positive
Looking at only the negative information we have
"What good is it to be the team's leading scorer if I'm going to miss easy shots like that last one?"
Jumping to Conclusions
Drawing hasty and unwarranted conclusions
"I have trouble returning Jane's serves, so she must be a much better player than I am."
Magnification / Minimization
Exaggerating negative (or diminishing positive) information
"I was a poor shooter in grade school, so I'll always be a poor shooter.  That long string of shots I made was just a crazy bunch of luck."
Emotional Reasoning
Believing something because it "feels" true, ignoring contradictory evidence
"I just know that loss was all my fault, and no one can convince me otherwise.  It doesn't matter how many other players failed or how little I played.
Should or Must
Having definite & inflexible ideas about behavior and "fairness" in life
"I should never let a fastball go by like that!  I must hit every one of those in order to be a good player."
Putting extreme "titles" on people or situations
"I am such a loser for missing that shot!  The biggest game of the year, and I messed up!"
Taking unnecessary responsibility for people or events
"If I would have made a better pass, Jack would have outrun the other team, and scored on the play."
Ignoring possibilities and predicting absolute failure
"It doesn't matter how we play this season, we can't win State, so the season's already a failure."
Mind Reading
Imagining that we know what someone else is thinking
"Coach didn't praise me at all today.  I know he thinks I'm a loser because of that mistake I made the other day."
Tunnel Vision
Failing to see any positives in a situation
After a lopsided loss, Coach Jerry Glanville was asked if his team had learned from the experience.  He said, "You don't learn anything from a loss like that."
Confirmational Bias
Accepting only information that agrees with our conclusion
"All my other stats notwithstanding, my shooting percentage proves I'm a lousy player."

~  In a journal, list the Faulty Heuristics (at least 3) which you experience most often.  Try to describe specifically the situations under which these thoughts occur to you.  How can you combat these distorted thought patterns?  Write out a plan to put yourself "back on track" when you sense these thoughts coming on.

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