What Is Overgeneralization? | Assertiveness Basics

  • Overgeneralization is a Cognitive Distortion, an automatic irrational thought.
  • It means to turn an isolated instance or event into a rule that describes the entire context.
  • It implies that there is only a category of elements, and nothing can exist outside that group.
  • Words that may indicate overgeneralization: “always”, “never”, “everybody”, etc.


Examples of Overgeneralization

“All ads are lies”.

“All married people cheat on their partners.”

“You never care about my feelings.”

The examples above treat an entire context as one single category and do not acknowledge exceptions to the rules they imply.

Some, if not most ads, are honest.

Not all married people cheat on their partners.

Unless you kept a journal and wrote down each situation where the other person dismissed your feelings, the claim is not valid.


How To Manage Overgeneralization

Verify whether there are exceptions to the rules you are automatically applying to certain contexts in your life. A single element that exists outside the general category invalidates the rule and the claim.