Arbitrary focus

Arbitrary focusing on a given modality

Arbitrary focus is a type of general cognitive distortion that consists in arbitrary focusing on a modality of a given duality. In the present context, this type of general cognitive distortion leads to favour one taxon in the subject’s system of taxa, by ignoring all the others. In arbitrary focusing, the taxon being discussed is present in the subject’s system of taxa, and is affected to an unique element of the reference class. There is eclipsing (in general temporary) of others taxa and other elements of the reference class, so that the subject is haunted by this specific element.

A particular instance of this type of general cognitive distortion, relates to the reference class of the facts of the subject’s life, and to the Positive/Negative duality. It is a specific cognitive distortion, which consists in focusing on a negative event of the subject’s life. It is then one of the classical cognitive distortions, defined as selective abstraction (Mental filter), which consists in the fact of choosing one detail with a negative connotation and to focalise on it. Suchlike, the subject sees only this detail, and his/her view of reality is darkened because it is entirely tinted with this particular event.


Franceschi P., Compléments pour une théorie des distorsions cognitives (in english), Journal de Thérapie Comportementale et Cognitive, 2007, 17, 2, 84-88.


Ambiguous images Arbitrary focus Bistable perception Complementarity relationship Conflict resolution Conflict resolution with matrices of concepts Conflict types relating to matrices of concepts Contrary relationship Dialectical contextualism Dialectical monism Dialectical monism in Aztec philosophy Dialectical monism in Heraclitus Dichotomic analysis Dichotomic analysis applied to paradox resolution Dichotomous reasoning Disqualification of one pole Disqualification of the positive Dualities Dual poles Extreme opposition General cognitive distortions Instance of one-sidedness bias Matrix of concepts Maximization Mental filter Minimization Bistable cognition Omission of the neutral One-sidedness bias One-sided viewpoint Opposition relationship Principle of dialectical indifference Requalification into the other pole Reference class Reference class problem Reference class problem in philosophical paradoxes Reference class problem in the Doomsday argument Reference class problem in Hempel’s paradox Reference class problem in the surprise examination paradox Selective abstraction Specific cognitive distortions System of taxa Two-sided viewpoint Viewpoint of a duality Viewpoint of a pole