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Chapter 16. Strategic Thinking Part Two > Key Idea #6: The Mind Tends to Genera...

Key Idea #6: The Mind Tends to Generalize Beyond the Original Experience

One of the important truths that Jean Piaget, the noted child psychologist, discovered about children is that they overgeneralize their immediate feelings. If something good happens to them, the whole world looks good to them. If something bad happens to them, the whole world looks bad to them. He called this phenomenon egocentric immediacy. What Piaget did not emphasize, however, is that the same reaction patterns are found in much adult thinking. It is fair to say that everyone has some difficulty putting the ups and downs of daily life into a long-range perspective. It is not easy to keep things in proper perspective, given the strength of our immediate (emotional) reactions.

Once we begin to interpret situations or events in our life as negative, we also tend to generalize that negativity and even, on occasion, to allow it to cast a gloom over our whole life. A broad-based pessimism or a foolish optimism can come to permeate our thinking when negative or positive events happen to us. We move rapidly from thinking of one or two events in our lives as negative (or positive) to thinking of everything in our lives as negative (or positive). Egocentric negative thinking easily leads to indulgent self-pity. And egocentric positive thinking easily leads to an unrealistic state of complacent comfort.


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