Discovering Ideas

English Composition Spring 2009 Palomar College

Magnification and Minimization

This cognitive distortion consists of seeing the positive results of your actions as smaller than they really are and the negative results of your actions as bigger than they really are. It is sometimes called "catastrophizing" or, more informally, "making a mountain out of a molehill." Like all-or-nothing thinking, it is a favorite cognitive distortion of perfectionists. It seldom fails that early on in the semester a student who has produced an excellent essay will come up to me and sheepishly apologize for handing in such unadulterated trash. Often such students will give lengthy and sorrowful explanations for why their elementary education was a failure or why they were horrible students in high school or why work or childbearing had driven everything they once knew about English right out of their heads. Surprisingly, these declarations often come after I've told the student that he or she produced a good essay. I've had several students actually drop the course after doing nothing but good work. People who apologize for good work are almost always magnifying and minimizing. They see six comma splices as more important than five pages of clear argument and sound evidence. They look at their errors through binoculars, but when they look at their virtues, they turn the binoculars around and look through the big end.

1996 John Tagg

Go to All or Nothing Thinking
Go to Cognitive Distortions List

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Discovering Ideas
Palomar College
This page was last edited: 01/05/09