(Last Updated On: June 20, 2022)

Cognitive Distortions
The Psychology Of ScamsPsychology Of Scams Psychology Of Scams is the study of the psychological or emotional effects of scams or financial fraud on victims of these crimes. It helps victims to better understand the impact of scams on them personally or on others. To find the SCARS articles on the Psychology of Scams, use the search option to enter the term and find them.

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What Is A Cognitive Distortion?

A cognitive distortion is an exaggerated or irrational thought pattern involved in the onset and perpetuation of psychopathological states, especially those more influenced by psychosocial factors, such as depression and anxiety, or in this case a psychological manipulation for the purposes of crime.

Psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck laid the groundwork for the study of these distortions in 1976, when he first proposed the theory behind cognitive distortions in the 1980s, and his student David D. Burns continued research on the topic. David Burns was responsible for popularizing it with common names and examples for the distortions. Burns, in The Feeling Good Handbook[2] (1989), described personal and professional anecdotes related to cognitive distortions and their elimination.

Cognitive distortions are thoughts that cause individuals to perceive reality inaccurately. According to the cognitive model of Beck, a negative outlook on reality sometimes called negative schemas (or schemata), is a factor in symptoms of emotional dysfunction and poorer subjective well-being. Specifically, negative thinking patterns cause negative emotions. During difficult circumstances, these distorted thoughts can contribute to an overall negative outlook on the world and a depressive or anxious mental state.

Challenging and changing cognitive distortions is a key element of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

cognitive-distortions

Most Common Cognitive Distortions That Affect Romance ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. Victims

Here are examples of some common cognitive distortions seen in depressed and anxious individuals. People may be taught how to identify and alter these distortions as part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

PLEASE NOTE: The following is not a diagnosis, and is only intended for educational purposes. Remember to always seek competent mental healthMental health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health". professionals for any form of therapy. CounselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. and therapy can only be provided by licensed professionals.

  1. Filtering: We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.
  2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking): In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure — there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. An example of this in scam victims is their black & white belief in justice, refusing to understand the nuanced complexity of criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. justice internationally, with treaties and extradition issues.
  3. Overgeneralization: In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat. An example of this is scam victims is the comments “that no one does anything.”
  4. Jumping to Conclusions: Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us. For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but doesn’t actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact. An example of this in scam victims is the tendency to take a small piece of information and exaggerate it into an urban legendUrban Legend Urban Legend An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend is a genre of modern folklore comprising stories circulated as true, especially on social media. These legends can be entertaining but often concern serious topics. They may also be confirmation of moral standards, or reflect prejudices, or be a way to make sense of societal anxieties. Urban legends are most often circulated orally but can be spread by any media, including newspapers, mobile news apps, e-mail, and social media. Some urban legends have passed through the years with only minor changes and seem impervious to exposure as untrue. – such as believing that Soldiers (or Adult Stars) are selling their photos or are in partnership with scammers.
  5. Catastrophizing: We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” We hear about a problem and use “what if” questions (e.g., “What if tragedy strikes?” “What if it happens to me?”). For example, a person might exaggerate the importance of insignificant events (such as their mistake, or someone else’s achievement). Or they may inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events until they appear tiny (for example, a person’s own desirable qualities or someone else’s imperfections). With practice, you can learn to answer each of these cognitive distortions. This is more common during the early recovery stages for scam victims in our experience.
  6. Personalization: Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc. A person engaging in personalization may also see themselves as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for. For example, “We were late to the dinner party and caused the hostess to overcook the meal. If I had only pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.” We tend to see this is very negative reactions to offers of support being viewed as personal attacks by victims.
  7. Control Fallacies: If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless victims of fate. For example, “I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor, my boss demanded I work overtime on it.” The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. For example, “Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”
  8. Fallacy of Fairness: We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. As our parents tell us when we’re growing up and something doesn’t go our way, “Life isn’t always fair.” People who go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness” will often feel bad and negative because of it. Because life isn’t “fair” — things will not always work out in your favor, even when you think they should. This is a common victim expression that it just is not fair that they were scammed, someone must come and save them – they demand it, and when it does not happen then everyone must be a criminal or in league with them too.
  9. BlamingBlaming Blame or Blaming is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong, their action is blameworthy. By contrast, when someone is morally responsible for doing something right, we may say that his or her action is praiseworthy. Blame imparts responsibility for an action or act, as in that they made a choice to perform that act or action.: We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blameBlame Blame or Blaming is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong, their action is blameworthy. By contrast, when someone is morally responsible for doing something right, we may say that his or her action is praiseworthy. Blame imparts responsibility for an action or act, as in that they made a choice to perform that act or action. ourselves for every problem. For example, “Stop making me feel bad about myself!” Nobody can “make” us feel any particular way — only we have control over our own emotions and emotional reactions. These victims frequently turn into what we call “haters” that attack other victims and support providers.
  10. Shoulds: We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules. A person may often believe they are trying to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’t, as if they have to be punished before they can do anything. For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” Musts and oughts are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When a person directs “should” statements toward others, they often feel angerAnger Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, trigger, hurt or threat. About one-third of scam victims become trapped in anger for extended periods of time following a scam. A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view anger as an emotion that triggers a part of the fight or flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically. Anger can have many physical and mental consequences. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them", psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability., frustration, and resentment.
  11. Emotional Reasoning: We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” This manifests in the forms of “vigilantism” that we frequently see in a large percentage of victims following a romance scam.
  12. Fallacy of Change: We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them. This can especially create barriers during the support and recovery process.
  13. Global Labeling: We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.” Instead of describing an error in the context of a specific situation, a person will attach an unhealthy label to themselves. For example, they may say, “I’m stupid” in a situation where they failed at a specific task. When someone else’s behaviorBehavior   Behavior / Behavioral Actions Otherwise known as habits, behavior or behavioral actions are strategies to help prevent online exploitation that target behavior, such as social engineering of victims. Changing your behavior is the ONLY effective means to reduce or prevent scams. rubs a person the wrong way, they may attach an unhealthy label to him, such as “He’s a real jerk.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. For example, instead of saying someone drops her children off at daycare every day, a person who is mislabeling might say that “she abandons her children to strangers.”
  14. Always Being Right: We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. For example, “I don’t care how badly arguing with me makes you feel, I’m going to win this argument no matter what because I’m right.” Being right often is more important than the feelings of others around a person who engages in this cognitive distortion, even loved ones.
  15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: We expect our sacrifice and self-denialDenial Denial is a refusal or unwillingness to accept something or to accept reality. Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something, refusal to acknowledge something unpleasant; And as a term of Psychology: denial is a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality. to pay off as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring (CR) is a popular form of therapy used to identify and reject maladaptive cognitive distortions and is typically used for individuals diagnosed with depression. It may also be valuable for victims of romance scamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost.seek appropriate medical professionals to determine if this might apply. In CR, the therapist and individual first examine a stressful event or situation reported by the individual.

For example, a scam victim believes they are to blame for being the victim of a criminal. Together with a competent licensed therapist, the individual might then create a more realistic cognition, e.g., “It was out of my control.” However, even though there are some things the individual can do to influence these decisions, whether or not they happen is largely out of their control. Thus, they are not responsible if they are scammed.

CR therapies are designed to eliminate “automatic thoughts” that include individuals’ dysfunctional or negative views. According to Beck, doing so reduces feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and anhedonia that are symptomatic of several forms of mental illnessMental Illness Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.. CR is the main component of Beck’s and Burns’s cognitive behavioral therapy.

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