Photo: David Dibert

What is Cognitive Reframing? 🖼️

Learn what it is, and why it matters!

Julia Clavien
Nov 27, 2019 · 2 min read

Here’s a new mental model for you - cognitive reframing. It’s a fantastic concept from the discipline of psychology that is useful to apply both in personal and professional situations! 🧠

What is cognitive reframing?

Cognitive reframing is a deceptively simple idea. It’s just looking at a given situation in a different way — or putting it in a new “frame” which could be more useful. (A frame in this sense is the complex set of your ideas, beliefs, value which are used to infer meaning on a situation.)

Why is this interesting?

Reframing can be extremely helpful in problem solving and decision making. If you have a situation that you think it might help to reframe:

  1. Acknowledge and try to recognize some of the framing that exists in your perception — certain ideas, beliefs etc

I’ll leave you with this marvelously memorable parable that reminds me of cognitive reframing:

A farmer in a poor village was considered very well-to-do, because he owned a horse which he used for plowing and for transportation. One day his horse ran away. All his neighbors exclaimed how terrible this was, but the farmer simply said “maybe.”

A few days later the horse returned and brought two wild horses with it. The neighbors all rejoiced at his good fortune, but the farmer just said “maybe.”

The next day the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses; the horse threw him and broke his leg. The neighbors all offered their sympathy for his misfortune, but the farmer again said “maybe.”

The next week conscription officers came to the village to take young men for the army. They rejected the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. When the neighbors told him how lucky he was, the farmer replied “maybe.” 🐴

Want to go deeper?

📖 An extreme example of reframing and a truly epic tale comes from Victor Frankl’s must read book Man’s Search For Meaning.

📧 Like learning mental models? Check out the Mental Models newsletter.

Julia Clavien

Written by

Curious to a fault. Technology | Psychology | Philosophy. All opinion subject to change. ☺

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade