What is Mental Filtering Cognitive Distortion What is Cause and Effect Thinking

What is Mental Filtering Cognitive Distortion — Cause and Effect Thinking

What is mental filtering cognitive distortion, and how does it affect you? Guess what? There are almost 200 of these potential thought distortions. But you don’t study them all to deal with them. All you need to do is spot the five factors that cause them. There are practical ways to declutter your mind.

Our brains are constantly processing information. The mind uses shortcuts called heuristics to make processing more efficient. These scripts increase the efficiency of decision-making. When these shortcuts aren’t accurate, they result in errors we call cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are a bias that has a harmful outcome. Let’s learn how to fix them.

How to Challenge Cognitive Distortions

If we follow some practical steps, we can remove cognitive distortions. Learning all the variations of bias and prejudice isn’t necessary. (1) These thought distortions come from five sources. All we need to do is identify and validate the source to see if it is correct. When we unmask the premises, we have unbelievable power to change. By removing harmful bias and prejudice, we become a better person.

It’s a two-step process: first, identify the source and trace it to the cognitive distortion. Second, remove the harmful thought script. Learning how to challenge cognitive distortions is simple, but it can be difficult emotionally.

What is Mental Filtering Cognitive Distortion?

The process of the mental filter is also called selective abstraction. An abstraction is a process of removing data to reach a conclusion. If the data on which we create a heuristic is flawed, it results in a flawed conclusion.

If we are going to learn how to challenge cognitive distortions, we need to be able to identify them. They are embedded in the mental filter. All inaccurate mental filters are a slippery slope. They lead to a variety of other harmful biases on the continuum of mental filtering cognitive distortion.

By identifying these thought scripts, we can prove or disprove their validity. If the facts and premises of these scripts are not true, we should remove them. We find them in the mental filter, a significant component of our worldview or paradigm. These distortions often take a standard heuristic formula of cause leading to effect.

What is Cause and Effect Thinking?

how to challenge cognitive distortions and practical ways to declutter your mind cause effect thinking

The formula for cause effect thinking is if X, then Y.  It asserts that X will always result in Y. For example, lowering the price of an item will increase its sales. While this type of thinking works for some things, it has limits. It is often a part of the mental filter, which results in flawed decision-making.

A mental filtering cognitive distortion is the result of an incorrect thought script, which produces an incorrect result. Familiar language cues help us spot this pattern. They include: if this, then that, or because of this, then that.

Some common signal words alert us to a cause effect thinking relationship. These include: then, consequently, thus, since, for, for this reason, as a result of, therefore, due to, this is how, nevertheless, and accordingly.

The use of these signal words is not proof of errant thinking. They need further investigation. Some cause and effect thinking relationships are valid. We determine this when the facts of the premises on which they are built are true. So not all cause effect thinking is harmful. You need to test the logic and factual basis to be sure they are correct.

Ways to Declutter Your Mind

Decluttering your mind is inner work that identifies and removes harmful thinking. It shows us how to challenge cognitive distortions and overcome them. There are mental tools that reveal these habitual patterns of thinking.

Once we reveal the thinking script, we have the opportunity to prove the premises behind it. Then, we can remove those that result in biased and prejudiced thinking. We start this journey by looking at the sources of this errant thinking.

The Five Sources of Mental Filtering Cognitive Distortion

While each cognitive bias is unique, researchers have categorized them into five groups. This helps to understand their effects on our decision-making. So, let’s dive in and look at sources that shape our thinking! We’ll mention a few of the most common flawed mental filters to help you understand how they work.

1. Social Biases: Our Human Interactions at Play

Social interactions contribute significantly to mental filter cognitive distortion. For example, our modern social environment is full of confirmation bias. Here, we find information that validates the author’s beliefs. Another common distortion is the bandwagon effect. People conform to the majority opinion to belong. These biases highlight our innate desire for social acceptance and show how social connections influence our decision-making.

Cause and effect thinking is at the root of many social measures, assumptions, and values. These are the scripts programmed by the cultural narrative. Most of the mental filtering cognitive distortion comes from two sources. Religion and politics are the origins of these harmful scripts.

Western religion is the primary source of the harmful scripts in our culture. It is followed closely by conservative or alt-right political propaganda. Removing these two sources will prevent at least 80% of the harmful input in your mind. We’ll discuss how to identify and remove the harmful scripts you already have in a moment.

2. Distortions from Within Personality, Instinct, and Memory.

We are born with default settings of personality and instinct. The Enneagram helps us understand the interplay between our personality type and instincts. People are interested in learning about their personalities. However, they fail to realize how their instincts affect their thinking. Without consciously thinking, we make many decisions based on instinctual drivers. You can see how this works.

The next time you go to a conference, watch how people select where they sit. Some will sit up front or in the middle, and these will invariably have a dominant social instinct. Others will sit in the back or on the ends, near doorways. These people almost always have a self-preservation instinct as the dominant. The sexual instinct types will watch where there “is something interesting going on.”  It could be conversations or interesting people. They will gravitate to these folks. If things aren’t interesting, they switch seats during breaks. This is in contrast to most others who will claim their territory.

Personality and instinct create invisible biases. They work in the shadows to taint thinking unless we unmask them using a tool like the Enneagram.

Our memories often deceive us, leading to a range of biases. The availability heuristic uses easily accessible information when making judgments or decisions. Meanwhile, the anchoring effect causes us to cling to information, even if flawed. Understanding these biases is crucial in combating their impact on our decision-making process.

Hindsight Bias is how our minds reshape memories and craft a false narrative. This false sense of knowing leads us to believe we predicted the outcome of an event when, in reality, we didn’t. It’s a way to confirm we were right, which only reinforces memory distortion.

The mind is designed to follow the heuristics of our personality, instinct, and memory. Yet, this direction can hold biases that limit our choices. When we limit choices, we fail to see other possibilities. When we also sat in the back of the room, sometimes we wished we dared to sit up front.

We’ll discuss how to do a deep dive into these default mechanisms in a moment.

3. Cognitive Limitations: The Constraints of Our Mental Capacity

Sometimes, our minds take shortcuts due to certain cognitive limitations, leading to biases. One prominent bias in this group is the framing effect, where our decisions are influenced by how information is presented. Beware of stupid people in large groups.

Heuristic thinking can lead to judgments based on stereotypes or assumptions. We simply do not consider or reject available information. Being aware of these biases enables us to examine our thinking and make more rational choices critically. It’s better to underestimate than overestimate your cognitive ability. That way, you’ll always be looking for ways to improve.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a classical indication of this limitation. In this effect, people overestimate their abilities due to a lack of metacognitive skills, which often results in poor decision-making.

Their lack of rational thinking is evident in those who operate at a higher function. This is where we see alt-right conservative thinking take center stage. The religious or political pundit must only be as intelligent as their followers. The Halo Effect is also popular with alt-right conservative celebrities. Here, people capitalize on their social position to influence others. This mindset relies almost exclusively on.”cause effect thinking.”

4. Emotional Influences: How Feelings Mold Our Perception

Emotions play a significant role in our decision-making process. Heightened emotions lead us to accept bias and prejudice. It’s why Klan rallies and religious services are always highly emotional events. The affect heuristic causes us to rely on our emotional responses when making judgments or choices. Similarly, the mere exposure effect suggests that we prefer things that are familiar. Understanding these emotional influences allows us to become more mindful of our biases. This helps us to make decisions based on rationality rather than intense emotions.

Emotional health is a direct reflection of mental health. If your mind is cluttered with unhealthy bias and prejudice, it is often reflected in the deterioration of your mental health.

5. Decision-Making Biases: The Impact on Our Choices

Finally, this group uncovers biases that cloud our judgment during decision-making processes. The sunk cost fallacy, for example, compels us to continue investing resources in a failing endeavor due to past investments. On the other hand, the overconfidence effect leads us to have an inflated sense of our abilities. Overestimating almost always results in suboptimal decision-making. Recognizing the decision-making biases helps us question our assumptions. Questioning our thinking helps us base our choices on sound reasoning.

Confirmation Bias is the tendency to focus on information that supports our beliefs, which presents us with an illusion of being correct. It is the blindfold that makes organized religion possible.

The Summary of What is Mental Filtering Cause Effect Thinking

As we wrap up this overview, we are reminded of the intricate ways our minds perceive and interpret the world around us. Cognitive biases can have profound effects on our decision-making process. By identifying their sources, we are empowered to mitigate their influence.

We know that we can deal with these five sources if we follow the process of some inner work. Let’s discuss the inner work process to deal with these distortions.

The Process to Challenge Cognitive Distortions

Here’s an outline of the practical ways to declutter your mind, including some tools to help you navigate this endeavor.

1) Identify the core beliefs of your mental filter
2) Analyze the rules of your sacred ground
3) Remove the harmful scripts and prejudice
4) Reprogram with positive scripts

This process is straightforward. The more detrimental programming you have, the longer it will take to move through the process.

Most of the programming we get comes from those who control the cultural narrative where we live. Believe it or not, religion is the source of most negative bias and prejudice.

Not all religions are harmful. For example, many Eastern systems, like Paganism and Taoism, do not limit freethinking. These systems encourage the use of logic and reason, and they can help you develop a unique path. The religions of India and Asia also encourage the development of your path. They understand that the myths of their texts are metaphors and analogies.

In contrast, Western religions are based on negative bias and prejudice. The religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (2) are the basis of the “chosen one” mindset. People believe they are entitled to preferential treatment because of their religious affiliation. And their beliefs justify any harmful actions they may take.

These systems accomplish a high level of control with methods of continuous indoctrination. They use group and self-hypnosis techniques to establish deep emotional ties to fear. This programming triggers your fight and flight response. You learn to reject facts and ideas that conflict with their boundaries. The more exposure to these brainwashing techniques, the harder it is to correct.

Thankfully, there are ways to correct this brainwashing. You can unravel this kind of magical thinking if you can get them to “see” the flaws of the paradigm and its effects on their lives. It starts with identifying the harmful components of religious belief.

1) Identify The Core Beliefs of Your Mental Filter

Your core beliefs are your sacred ground. These are the things you hold sacred and essential. We want you to write them down. You’ll create a document, a cheat sheet, which contains your sacred ground.   Identify these, and you’ll be halfway there.   We’ll say it right from the start: don’t skip steps. Follow the process, and it will work.

Religious and political beliefs affect our ability to use reason to differing degrees. It all depends upon the validity and health of these scripts. The more harmful the rules and limitations, the more they affect our ability to reason facts from fiction.    Even if you don’t follow a religion, it still affects you. Religious beliefs infect a society through its customs. These superstitions make their way into the laws.

“The Gospels, written many decades after the fact, are a blend of fact and fantasy—historical fiction.  And, although the proportions of the blend may differ from scholar to scholar, no credible historians take them at 100 percent face value.” ― Dan Barker, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists

“Academics concede that the Bible’s text is full of pious fraud.  They admit that there are two gods spoken of in the opening books.   And, then as time went by, the two (Elohim and Jehovah) were fused into one, henceforth referred to as Lord God. And, they concede the errors, fiction, skewed facts, and accounts of characters who never existed.  They admit the plagiarism, and that the Four Gospels were not written by the so-called Saints after whom they are named.” ― Michael Tsarion, The Irish Origins of Civilization, Volume Two

Please do it! Start your cheat sheet by listing your core beliefs. Most people have anywhere from ten to twenty core beliefs that deal with religious and political beliefs. Here are some examples:

I believe in God, my God, not yours
— Everyone, regardless of race, should be treated equally
— Mithra is the real Jesus of the New Testament
— I believe protecting the environment is more important than profit
— People are not the product of evolution; we were planted here by aliens
— The laws of government should not be a reflection of dark age superstition of the Bible
— The Earth is not Flat. It is a Sphere. Get over it
— The State of Israel has become a terrorist organization
— Donald Trump is being persecuted unjustly
— The Lock Ness Monster and Bigfoot are real
— My Belief in Mithra guarantees my place in heaven when I die

The most common core beliefs concern afterlife beliefs and moral standards. Many people are part of the Abrahamic tree. These Semitic faiths are not new; they are copies of earlier religions. Some names changed, but the doctrines remained the same.   The origins of their religions harken back to mystery religions of the Mediterranean region circa 1 BCE.   These are the religions of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and Persia.

“The book of Acts has been all but discredited as a work of apologetic historical fiction.  Nevertheless, its author may have derived some of its material or ideas from earlier traditions, written or oral. But the latter would still be extremely unreliable.  Note, for example, the condition of oral tradition under Papias which is and wholly unverifiable.  And not only because teasing out what Luke inherited from what Luke chose to compose therefrom is all but impossible for us now.  Thus, our best hope is to posit some written sources, even though their reliability would be almost as hard to verify. Especially, again, as we don’t have them. So, we cannot distinguish what they actually said from what Luke added, left out, or changed.” ― Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt

2) Analyzing the Rules of Religious Belief

Analyzing the rules means determining whether the facts and premises for your beliefs are true. Creating a cognitive bias cheat sheet can be scary if you are a member of one of the Abrahamic religions. If you wrote down your beliefs, chances are you are ready to defend them rather than find out if they have a factual or logical basis. Many people get so entangled in their religion that it becomes their identity.

When you don’t own your identity, using good judgment is impossible. So, let’s examine your beliefs to see if they are sound or tainted by myth and superstition.

If you ask What is mental filtering as it relates to your afterlife beliefs, people get anxious. This is why it’s such an excellent place to start. What are the benefits? How much do they cost? What negative views does it inspire towards people who don’t believe as you do?

Salvation is also a central topology for the Abrahamic traditions. It is a this for that transaction or an example of what is cause and effect thinking.

“So this is the state of the Gospels.  Four contradictory, convoluted and reworked writings set down decades after the supposed events.  Written by unknown author or authors which are falsely being passed off as eyewitnesses.  All primarily supposedly derived from a single source, which, as we’ll see, appears to be entirely literary fiction.” ― David Fitzgerald, Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All

“I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God.  I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction.  The Christian God may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or ancient Egypt, or of Babylon.  But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other.   They lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.” ― Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects

There is little doubt Western religion is a danger to society. People say only the extremists of these religions are behind the violence. But, a belief system is seriously flawed if its fundamental values inspire violence. It is nothing more than a cash-flow scheme based on myths and superstition.

With this kind of group and self-hypnosis, you can install thinking and behaviors without limitation. It establishes what is right and wrong. It reaches all facets of life, dictating personal and social values.   These systems thrive on conflict, selling genocide and war. They justify the discrimination of races, ethnicity, and gender while proclaiming they are agents of love. Teachers cherry-pick their holy texts to fit their needs. It’s the main reason we know them as false light.

Children can be the most effective agents of truth because they ask hard questions. They point out illogical inconsistencies and errors. The questions posed by innocent children can help adults. Many Sunday school teachers leave the Church because of the questions posed by children.

3) Remove the Harmful Scripts and Prejudice

To remove them, you must identify and determine whether they are harmful. You’ll need to decide to change your thinking. Understanding how even seemingly harmless beliefs affect your thought processes will help you choose.

Right now, you might ask yourself, what if I believe in an imaginary friend in the sky? What does that hurt? We’ll spend some time explaining why removing ideas like this is essential.

How Belief Affects Common Sense and Logic

Here’s how it works: Western Religion programs the mind to set up your value filter system, which triggers our “freeze, fight, or flight” reaction. We react to the threat as if it were a real physical danger. So, the more extreme your beliefs, the more violently you respond to the stimulus. The release of adrenaline in your system means you stop using your critical thinking skills.

What is mental filtering in this paradigm? You automatically reject any idea outside the boundaries of your paradigm. Rejecting new ideas diminishes your ability to use common sense and logic. Confirmation bias takes precedence, and using good judgment is undermined. One sign of this is your need to defend superstition and mythology.

The first step in our blended learning process is a readiness assessment. This tool helps us identify any roadblocks to learning. This assessment helped us to spot an inverse relationship between belief and cognitive ability. The stronger their beliefs, the less likely they were to use logic or critical thinking skills in making decisions. The more ridged their beliefs, the less intolerant they were of new ideas.

In short, the more extreme your religious beliefs, the less likely you are to consider ideas outside your paradigm. This means you aren’t ready to learn. Not only will you disregard facts that conflict with your paradigm, but you’ll also likely disrupt the learning of others. You are a puppet of those who are behind the programming.

You can test your level of religious indoctrination by assessing your emotions. Do you have an adverse emotional reaction when something challenges your beliefs? Are you having an adverse emotional response to this article? If so, this is a sign you are reading things that challenge your worldview.

If you follow one of the Abrahamic religious sects, reading this article will likely cause you to experience a negative emotional response. We can help you unmask the programming that triggers this unreasonable response. We can help to make you less vulnerable and threatened by new ideas. How can we do this? Let’s look at how the correct use of logic can help you see the facts from fiction. Many people find this the most challenging step in the cognitive bias cheat sheet.

A Little Logic Goes a Long Way

Here’s an example of how to spot the improper use of deductive reasoning and the “false premise.”  We’ll use the Supreme Being, Odin, as our subject.

One of the most common ploys is for someone to ask you to prove their God does not exist.   Turn the argument around. The burden of proof is on the person claiming the existence of something. This is especially true for entities without physical form.

The absence of physicality is not proof of absence. People will use the analogy of the milk bowl as false proof. They will say the lack of milk in a bowl is like their God. The problem is this isn’t a valid analogy to prove Odin exists.   Milk exists apart from the bowl; Odin does not. So, the absence of evidence is not proof of absence. This is an example of what is cause and effect thinking that is valid.

You cannot prove the non-existence of something that does not exist. For example, you cannot disprove the existence of Odin, but this does not prove he exists.

It’s impossible to prove or disprove things that don’t have a physical form. It’s impossible to prove gods don’t exist. However, that doesn’t mean they do. You cannot prove or disprove the existence of an imaginary entity, including Apolo, Zeus, Mithra, Dyonisys, or any other god.   Similarly, anecdotal evidence is not proof of the existence of gods. What you think is a picture of Jesus appearing in your toast is not proof he exists.

Let’s continue our discussion of God with one of our favorites, Odin.

Proving Odin Exists or What are Sound Judgments?

Let’s assume we meet someone who claims Odin exists. When we challenge them to provide evidence for the existence of Odin, we get the following response:

First, they point out that no ice giants exist because Odin promised to kill them. Since there aren’t any ice giants, Odin is obviously responsible for this problem. But we aren’t done yet.

Second, there are many stories of Odin dating back through oral traditions in Germanic mythology over 3,000 years. There are stories about Odin (from Old Norse Óðinn) in many ancient forms of Paganism. These stories are found from outer Russia and Scandinavia to the British Isles. In Britain, he is known as Wóden, Old Saxon as Wōden, and Old High German as Wuotan or Wodan. That’s a much broader range of people than Jesus of the New Testament.

Their third argument is that such a large amount of evidence from various authoritative sources proves Odin exists. Right? The answer to these arguments is no. Sorry, you’re mistaken. None of these arguments proves Odin’s existence. A myth told a thousand times is still a myth.

First, the absence of imaginary creatures like ice giants doesn’t mean they ever existed. Nor does the lack of ice giants mean Odin had anything to do with their absence today. Second, just because someone writes something down doesn’t mean it happened.

Third, repeating stories does not make them real. Stories about Odin do not prove his existence. And all these points apply to all imaginary friends and enemies, not just Odin. This example shows us how myths, circular logic, and the misuse of an argument are used in an attempt to make stories and legends true.    Using common sense and logic reveals the problems with false propositions.

Okay, I’m Done with Mythology and Superstition!

Removing harmful religious mental filters isn’t easy. The longer you believe something, the more ingrained it becomes. As we delve into what is cause and effect thinking, we see how it permeates myth and superstition. The more exposure to religious programming, the more it reinforces these scripts.   We have several tools to get you started if you are ready for this step. Here are some you can start with:

The Symbols and Cognitive Links that Trigger Fear
Self-Observation Tools for Positive Change
The Mind Trap of Faith and Belief
To Believe or Not to Believe, Why Do I Believe That?
The Afterlife For Sale
God is the Most Powerful Metaphor
Learn How to Spot Our Real Enemies

4) Reprogram with Positive Scripts

So, did you make it this far in the process, or are you skimming ahead to see the last step? If you followed the process, you’ve identified some harmful scripts in your mental filter. If you’ve decided to remove them, great for you! We need more freethinkers.

Feeling “raw” and worn-out is common when doing this inner work. Now, you can begin to rebuild healthy psychic structures. We recommend using mantras and affirmations to reprogram the mind with positive thought scripts. These are practical tools for reprogramming unhealthy thought patterns and negative self-talk.

In Conclusion

We are all susceptible to heuristics that program false or inaccurate data. So, revisiting your core beliefs to ensure they align with sound data and logic is a good idea. Remove the mental filtering cognitive distortion before it affects your thinking. Pass along these ways to declutter your mind. Teach others how to challenge cognitive distortions. Keep questioning, keep seeking, and never stop exploring your infinite psyche.


(1) A Neural Network Framework for Cognitive Bias. National Library of Medicine.
(2) Abrahamic Religions. Wikipedia.