Thought Mine #9: Filtering

Each Thought Mine is followed by a definition and a list of examples. Please note that the following examples are representative statements. The same sentence may represent numerous Thought Mines. I list examples mainly to give you a starting point. Often individuals blend two or three “favorite” Thought Mines together into their own type of social misreading.

Thought Mine #9: Filtering

Also called:

Mental filtering, Selective abstraction, Discounting.


Discounting information that does not fit your present argument.

Negative self-talk example:

“Why try a new alarm clock, I always sleep through my alarm.”

Couple example:

Sally: “I will never get married because I’m fat.”

Dr. Phil: “Do you know anyone who is as big as you who has gotten married?”

Sally: “I have two friends who are bigger than I am who got married.”

Teen example:

Teen: “In the last month I have only snuck onto the computer one time. One time!”

Mom: “I understand that, but the one time was yesterday.”

Work/school example:

“I don’t care about the nice things my boss wrote on my quarterly evaluation, I know he’s planning on giving me a poor annual evaluation.”

“I’m getting D’s on my homework, but I’ll do OK on the final, why start studying now?”


By filtering out information that is inconvenient to one’s argument, an individual can easily find the answer that he or she wants to find.

A common joke heard in college statistics classes is, “Nine out of ten doctors think the tenth doctor is an idiot.” By disregarding opposition to your thought it is easy to be misinformed.

Filtering is a form of lying; lying by avoiding important information. “What my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” is a common couple-filtering problem.  This type of belief system tends to undermine a relationship, making it extremely weak over time.

By filtering communication one tends to avoid personal responsibility.

The best way to deal with filtering is to argue with yourself. Question your own authority. Ask yourself how you could do something differently. Become your own devil’s advocate. This way you can provoke an internal discussion. Take the other side of the argument and find the strongest evidence for that stance. Challenge yourself.

Challenge others in the same way. (Via discussion, not argument.) I was once in a lively discussion with a colleague concerning the scientific proof of psychic phenomenon. After an hour of opinion and counter opinion I took my own advice. “Gust, in your expansive understanding of the literature, what is the best evidence that there is no such thing as psychic phenomenon?” After a long thought he said, “I am quite surprised that we have not one iota of evidence of interstellar psychic or future transverse psychic phenomena.” Well, that tightened up my side of the debate. Even if I had no idea what it meant, the obvious gaping lack of interstellar and future transverse data seemed to be all the proof I needed. But seriously, it is important to look at all sides of an issue to help you get to the best answer. Purposefully leaving out information is a form of lying to yourself.

More: Understanding Thought Mines

Thought Mines are social misreadings that get in the way of communicating clearly. They are thought stumbling blocks that allow us to misread, and often misjudge, the intention of others. By misreading others intentions, we can often get sidetracked from getting our needs met.


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