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What are the fallacies of fairness?

Fallacies of fairness are types of cognitive distortions (or unhelpful ways of thinking). There are several forms of fallacies, but two common ones are the Fallacy of Fairness and Heaven’s Reward Fallacy. The Fallacy of Fairness refers to the belief that all things in life should be based on fairness and equality. An example of this cognitive distortion can be feeling as though you are being treated unfairly because your coworker received a promotion over you. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy refers to the belief that you will be rewarded if you work hard enough or do good deeds. An example is the belief of “what goes around comes around,” or that good things will come your way for being good yourself.

How are the fallacies of fairness harmful?

If you hold either of these cognitive distortions, you may find that things don’t always work in your favor. For example, you may work just as hard (or harder) as your coworker and still not receive the promotion. You might do good deeds such as paying it forward but feel like that good luck doesn’t come back around. The reality is that not everything in life is fair or equal. We may expect or want things to work out in a certain way, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes, they just don’t. Holding these beliefs can cause you to feel constantly disappointed, angry, and resentful.

How can I combat the fallacies of fairness?

Having these thoughts can be tough, especially when we see other people receiving benefits and advancements we may also feel entitled to. The best way to avoid feeling angry and disappointed is to challenge the way we let these distortions affect us. Challenging these thoughts through cognitive restructuring (i.e., learning to identify and dispute irrational thoughts and beliefs) is a great way to begin combating these distortions. You can do this by questioning your assumptions and gathering evidence for them. Your therapist can also help you develop skills using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

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