The 9 Cognitive Distortions Taught in College…

… and why students pay to learn them.

Thomas P Seager, PhD
10 min readSep 9, 2018

It’s pretty reasonable to expect that Americans go to college for lots of reasons that include how to improve their thinking. But Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt suggest some college classes are doing the opposite in their book called The Coddling of the American Mind.

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Haidt became well known for his two previous books, The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind which I’ve quoted before in posts like Moral Foundation Theory. In these previous books, Haidt introduced the metaphor of the Rider and the Elephant to debunk the utilitarian theory of human behavior based on the teachings of 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. According to ultilitarian theory, people are happiness maximizers, who perform some sort of hidden calculus to determine what decisions will make them most happy, and then act in accordance with this happiness (i.e., “utility”) maximization principle.

If a utility maximization theory of human behavior doesn’t already sound like a bunch of dangerous garbage to you, then allow me to elaborate.