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The Concept of Thinking Traps Essay

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Updated: May 14th, 2021


Thinking traps are often encountered whenever an important decision needs to be made. It could be a life-altering choice for education, expensive purchase of property, relationship decision, or any other high-impact choice. There are a number of such traps that can be encountered and each one can be capable of swaying a person’s opinion. However, being aware of them could prevent poor and uninformed decisions from being committed. Recently, I had to be a guiding voice in a decision to purchase a new car for my relatives. They were intimidated by the variety of choices and had very specific needs and budget allowances. In this paper, I will reflect on the thinking traps I encountered and for the most part was able to avoid while making a decision on this matter.

The Situation

I have a very healthy relationship with my aunt and uncle. For years they consulted me on the matters of purchasing expensive pieces of equipment and appliances. A few months ago, they asked me to help with choosing a new car. Their old one is currently beyond repair. The market is currently filled with a wide range of cars that would be appropriate for their use, but the differences between manufacturers and optional versions of models are very confusing to them. They are not rich and often cannot replace an item if it does not have a warranty, so it is really important for them to make sure that everything they buy is reliable. They also often go camping which makes cargo compartments a priority. Gas mileage, warranty types, and length, as well as the previously mentioned elements, had to be considered for this decision.

All or Nothing Thinking

During my first examination of the market, I was not fully prepared for this task, and now that I reflect on my initial search, I understand which thinking traps I let myself fall into. The first one was “all or nothing” thinking. When filtering through the available options, I was preoccupied with making sure that the car met all the requirements set by the relatives of the highest possible quality. Unfortunately, this thinking did not result in a viable option, so I was forced to reconsider my choices. This trap may often affect people when judging other people or actions, but it may be encountered even when making purchasing decisions (Chittenden & Anthony, 2013).


Another trap that initially affected my reasoning is over-generalization. Three years ago, I had a serious issue while riding in a Toyota vehicle. A tire blew while my friend was driving and the car swerved onto the side of the road. Nobody was hurt during the event, but my opinion of the manufacturer became very low. I over-generalized by thinking of all Toyota vehicles as dangerous and unreliable, despite the fact they do not have lower reliability than those of other brands. I decided to read the information on their reliability to gain a better idea of the situation after seeing generally positive reviews of the cars they produce (Schoenleber & Gratz, 2018).

Jumping to Conclusions

This might be slightly embarrassing, but when choosing a car for my relatives, I assume that it would need to have the same or similar color as their old vehicle. I meticulously searched through the online catalogs for similar colors and even excluded some perspective options of cars that did not allow for the same shade of blue as their original vehicle was. I never fully prevented this issue from affecting my decision because after assuming, I did not think about it a second time. To my surprise, they were not concerned with the color of the car and even preferred to be different for the sake of novelty. I believe that this type of assumption can be extremely dangerous in situations that concern people’s wellbeing (Laptook, 2015).

Exaggeration and Magnification

Before I started my search, my uncle made sure to emphasize the importance of cargo space inside the car and how often they plan to use it for camping. This conversation forced me to believe that it is a need of the highest priority for them. In some portions of the search, I began to lean more towards choices that had large trunks but were not as reliable as others. During our next contact, I made sure to ask him if this approach was correct and he said that I should prioritize reliability instead while keeping cargo space the second place in the list of priorities. Such misunderstandings can lead to much larger issues in the future, as more important problems can be overshadowed by less important ones (Kerns, Roux, Connell, & Shattuck, 2016).


This thinking trap was directly tied to the previous one during my decision-making. As I stated earlier, I began to overlook issues in cars such as lower reliability, insufficient warranty coverage, as well as other problems when the car had a lot of cargo space. This issue was solved during the same conversation with my uncle as he pointed out the importance of reliability over other factors (Tidball, 2016).

Emotional Reasoning

When I was younger, my family had a comfortable Ford family vehicle. While I was not fully aware of the manufacturer or why cars may be good or bad, I still developed an emotional connection to the Ford brand of vehicles. This led me to initially prioritize Ford cars over others with no evidence of them being more reliable than other brands. Such thinking is extremely common when dealing with topics that are tied to good or bad memories. However, this trap can lead to negative outcomes despite the emotional connection (Tidball, 2016).

Confirmation Bias

Continuing from the previous trap, when looking at the reviews and statistics of the Ford vehicles, I often considered any negative feedback as a magnification of issues on the part of the reviewer or misleading information. In my memories, Ford vehicles never broke down in the middle of a trip and were the most comfortable out of all others. This was not true. Memories often present a false reality based on emotions experienced at that time, rather than a clear fact. Eventually, I had to admit that there was no benefit to what I was doing and I widened my horizons of the matter of car brands (Tidball, 2016).


I experienced the majority of common thinking traps when choosing a car for my relatives. It was a very important purchase for them, and I wanted to make sure that it would last them for decades with minimal issues. By the end, I managed to avoid almost all the traps after thinking about what I was doing and consulting with the relatives. My choice was beneficial to them, and they still use the car with no issues. By reflecting on this matter right now, I gained a better understanding of the issues I had during the selection process, and I will try to avoid them in the future.


Chittenden, D., & Anthony, P. (2013). A cognitive behavioural approach to working with parents and families. Community Practitioner; London, 86(12), 31–34.

Kerns, C. M., Roux, A. M., Connell, J. E., & Shattuck, P. T. (2016). Adapting cognitive behavioral techniques to address anxiety and depression in cognitively able emerging adults on the autism spectrum. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 23(3), 329–340.

Laptook, R. (2015). Managing childhood problems. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 31(3), 1–6.

Schoenleber, M., & Gratz, K. L. (2018). Self-acceptance group therapy: A transdiagnostic, cognitive-behavioral treatment for shame. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 25(1), 75–86.

Tidball, K. G. (2016). Traps in and of our minds: relationships between human logic, dialectical traps and social-ecological traps. Sustainability Science; Dordrecht, 11(6), 867–876.

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