CT Group Tip: Thinking Error Deterrents

thinking error deterrentsDeterrents to negative thinking errors are the primary and practical way a changing criminal thinker can alter their thoughts to affect their behavior. This group facilitation tip focuses on examining the five thinking deterrents in real life situations for group participants.

1. Pick a thinking error to review.

2. Read the corresponding article for the error in the CT Module.

  • Have group members read one paragraph each
  • Ask the reader to define any potentially confusing words or concepts and the facilitator should help clarify understanding as needed.

3. Ask each reader to give an example of how they have used the thinking error recently.

4. Review the five thinking deterrents with the group.

5. Ask the first reader which deterrent they used or could have used to change their thinking in the example they described. Repeat this step with each reader.

OPTIONAL: Assign the related thinking error worksheet as a homework or in-class assignment.


Concrete Thinking

Concrete ThinkingHuman mental processes typically evolve from the concrete to the conceptual, whereas the criminal is often described as failing to learn from experience. This individual does not generalize the outcome of one situation to similar circumstances, a problem which is related to the fragmented thinking associated with the criminal personality.

The criminal is extremely situational in their interpretation of the world around them. Instead of defining right and wrong as the issue in their behavior, the criminal is interested in what they can do without being caught, or what they can get away with.

Failing to internalize pro-social values, the criminal’s main controls lie outside themself; for example. they will not commit a crime if the risk is too great. The criminal thinker tends to view the world around them in extremes: black and white, either/or, and with little flexibility.

In order to enact change, the criminal must learn to relate current events to similar experiences and lessons. Some of these will be related in form, though not in substance, to the situation at hand. Repetitive tardiness, for instance, could be related to a lack of consideration for others, or to a poor concept of family and a lack of concern for the role of a child, sibling, spouse or parent.

Visit the CriminalThinking.net website for free worksheets to help deter and correct the thinking error of concrete thinking and many others errors in thinking. Browse these other common thinking error articles as well:


Unique and Superior

UniquenessA common perception among criminal thinkers is the idea that they are different and better than others. Even when a criminal is repeatedly arrested for a violation, their ‘uniqueness’ in thinking leads them to believe that it won’t happen to them again. Common sense would dictate that if I am arrested multiple times for the same situation I should learn from those arrests and stop violating the law. However, uniqueness dictates that I am better than the average person who gets arrested and I can still beat the system.

Instead of using the arrest as a wake-up call to lead a responsible life, criminal thinkers see it as a violation of their personal space and freedom. Even when they are caught in the act of committing a crime they focus on the feigned brutality of the police or the lack of responsibility of their victim. I have heard it said by an offender that “if she would have held on to her purse tighter it wouldn’t have been stolen. I was doing her a favor by taking it so she will be more aware of her own personal safety.” In this scenario, the victim is to blame and the offender is providing a public service! It is no surprise that repeat offenders with this type of thinking continue to fill our jails and prisons.

The language criminal thinkers use to describe situations also flows from distorted thinking. Instead of an offender saying that they did something wrong that harmed others, they will say they got “caught up.” This type of language cognitively minimizes the role they played in the situation. Criminal thinkers believe the rules of society do not pertain to them and they think they are fully justified in their irresponsible actions. Self-esteem is not something the criminal thinker lacks.

Uniqueness is also a personal belief in the offender’s superiority which dominates their thinking. They do not believe they need to work hard to attain success. Even when a criminal thinker is experiencing the dreaded, but fleeting, zero-state of thinking, i.e. a feeling of complete worthlessness, their belief that no one has felt as down or depressed as they have is another example of the uniqueness thinking error.

The changing thinker must begin to see the commonalities they share with others. When others are sharing their own thoughts and problems they must listen and relate those stories to their own life. Feelings of uniqueness must be looked at from the natural consequences that have resulted in an offenders life. The healthy opposite of uniqueness is seeing how we are similar to others and not superior. The development of humility is a natural deterrent to thoughts of uniqueness and superiority. By replacing the thinking error of uniqueness the changing person will begin to develop a sense of belonging in a responsible society.

Access our free “Uniqueness” worksheet on CriminalThinking.net.


"An approach to the treatment of offenders which emphasizes the role of altering thinking patterns in bringing about change in an offender's life."