Most of the time, wishes are subordinated to reality. It is impossible to think that the weather is nice – as much as we want – when we are walking in the rain. However, the theory of illusory thinking suggests that when we stand for an idea we believe in, the boundaries of reality begin to disappear.
People can’t believe the most improbable just because they want to. Illusory thinking refers to the type of thinking that uses emotions and decides based on them what would be more pleasant to imagine instead of using evidence or rationality as the basis for determining actions. or opinions.
In this article we explain What is delusional thought?its foundations, as well as its main consequences when making a decision.
What is illusory thinking?
It is said that human beings are rational beings; however, when making decisions or forming opinions, a host of cognitive biases operate.
Pious wish refers, in psychology, to the process of forming opinions and making decisions instead of serving desires and emotions, instead of being based on facts or using rationality. Illusory thinking is based on emotions and is the product of the conflict between desire and reality.
Research suggests that if the situation remains static, people tend to imagine a positive resolution to events; this is called the optimistic bias. Otherwise, for example, if some type of negative threat or event occurs, the opposite situation occurs and people tend to imagine a negative resolution to the situation.
In the case of delusional thought, the subject only considers the arguments and events that support his opinion, he stops observing the contrary evidence. Therefore, it is considered that this type of decision-making process is mainly based on emotions.
However, although it lacks rationality, sometimes favorable consequences can be drawn from this cognitive bias. The so-called “Pygmalion effect” describes how delusional thinking can positively influence decision-making, and help achieve better results.
Forming accurate opinions based on evidence or rationality is a fundamental process when deciding, be it policy, business strategy, or any type of interaction that involves negotiation.
How Melnikoff asks in his article on motivational bias: when a lawyer defends his client or when a manager defends a new business strategy, are they limited by reality? Or does the lens make reality more easily distorted?
A concrete example of delusional thought could be the predictions of the Tarot. A person encouraged by a positive draw, in which they are told that they are about to cross paths with the love of their life, might suggest different ways to get there, go out more than usual, be nicer to people you know etc. Although it does not mean that the relationship will go well, if we can observe the effect on behavior that delusional thinking can produce.
The delusional thought process suggests that, when making a decision, people will only weigh options that produce a positive outcome. At the same time, the possibilities where the consequences are negative will be denied or left unaddressed.
For this reason, delusional thinking is seen as a form of bias and an inadequate process when it comes to guiding our behavior. It also implies a logical error, in which one believes that something will be true simply by wishing it.
As can be seen, many studies suggest that beliefs can be skewed if one has pre-established goals, although current theories claim that what is called motivated bias, i.e. imposed beliefs by our desires, disappear when the reality is established.
Foundations of delusional thinking
Behind delusional thinking, there is imagination and desire, where the obvious and reality are ignored in order to fulfill pre-established goals and achieve the desired result.
Imagination is a human capacity, which allows us to create or draw situations that are not real, that is, to make a representation in the absence of existing objects or situations. Although this capacity is not negative in itself, since it is not only the foundation of artistic creation, it can also help us in the context of decision-making, for example by allowing us to imagine scenarios possible and to anticipate results in different contexts. However, in delusional thought, not only the imagination is used, but the force of objective desire makes reality forget and the different proofs, which can lead to a series of unnecessary risks.
It is in this process of denial that the illusion intervenes above all. It manifests as a misinterpretation of an event, but it does not cease to relate to reality. An example that shows this correlation are mirages: the person dying of thirst in the desert will see an oasis of water. The desire, or in this case the need for water, will make us see the oasis.
Illusions, in some cases, are difficult to recognize, because they can take the form of reality. If we analyze it, when we buy the lottery, we have a ticket. Therefore, it is important when deciding and making decisions or setting goals to be as realistic as possible and to have as much evidence as possible. An excess of illusory thoughts can lead to frustration and discouragement; on the contrary, a series of realistic goals will allow us to maintain motivation and long-term better self-esteem.
Consequences of delusional thinking
The illusory thought process involves denying evidence and rationality, therefore, it lacks objectivity. This often leads to bad decisions with negative consequences for the subject.
There are different pseudosciences based on illusory thinking and the power of the mind as a method to achieve our goals. The placebo effect could also be a kind of delusional thinking, the positive effect of which has been demonstrated. However, the negative side of thinking like this could prevent us from going to the doctor or undergoing the necessary treatments, because we believe that we can only be cured if we want to.
Another case of delusional thought would have to do with our true abilities. Imagine a person who wants to be a great concert performer and spends hours and hours imagining his performances and how he receives a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the performance. However, at the moment of truth, he devotes very few hours to what would really make him a better pianist, rehearsals.
As we can see, this type of thinking can in the long run have negative consequences on self-esteem; because it is only with imagination and desire that the person will never achieve his goals and goals. A realistic mindset would involve analyzing what real abilities are available and how many hours and years of study are required to become a great piano professional.
But, Why does our mind deceive us? Why obey irrational thoughts and cognitive biases? Apparently, the explanation is evolving; our brain when making decisions cannot take into account all the necessary parameters. This way of acting was very beneficial for our ancestors, because they lived surrounded by external threats and it was important to quickly activate escape mechanisms.
However, we no longer live in an environment to which we must constantly adapt. And this way of thinking more than helping us seems to limit us when it comes to making certain informed decisions; opting for our wishes, instead of reality.
In conclusion, Illusory thinking is based on imagination and desireand although it can be positive in certain concrete cases, as in the case of the “Pygmalion effect”, in the long term this process of decision-making and the formation of beliefs affects our self-esteem and our self-concept. Making decisions based on emotion and imagination, disregarding reality, can cause frustration and other unpleasant feelings
- Excerpted from Kohan, N., & Macbeth, G. (2006). Cognitive biases in decision making.
- Hamblin, C. (2017). Errors (Vol. 8). Conference editors.
- Gustavo, P. (2018). Practical imagination as a catalyst for practical rationality. Veritas, (39), 9-31.
- Bastardi, A.; Uhlmann, EL; Ross, L. (2011). Wishful Thinking: Belief, Desire, and the Motivated Evaluation of Scientific Evidence.