Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Dichotomous Thinking

  • Jamie A. Lewis
  • Kylie J. Fraga
  • Thane M. EricksonEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_651-1



Dichotomous thinking, also referred to as “black-and-white thinking” or “all-or-none thinking,” reflects as the tendency to evaluate situations and experiences as mutually exclusive, binary categories rather than falling along a continuum.


Dichotomous thinking may occur as a state that fluctuates from situation to situation. However, clinical and personality psychologists have often emphasized trait-like tendencies toward this cognitive style, conceptualized as a risk factor for subclinical and clinical distress, with potential relevance to personality pathology. Relevant processes include cognitive distortions, trait perfectionism, and “splitting” in the context of personality disorder, for example.

Cognitive Distortions as Dichotomous Thinking

Initially described by Aaron Beck (1963), cognitive distortionsrepresent ways of thinking – albeit often automatic – involving irrational...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jamie A. Lewis
    • 1
  • Kylie J. Fraga
    • 1
  • Thane M. Erickson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Clinical PsychologySeattle Pacific UniversitySeattleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • John F. Rauthmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Universität zu LübeckLübeckGermany