Cognitive distortion (pseudoscience)

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The concept of cognitive distortion has been used in victimological pseudoscience to assert that minor attracted individuals are unusually prone to distorted thinking and rationalisations. The motivations behind this usage have been described as political and probably span from a desire to pathologise political dissent and categorise all minor-attracted people as in need of corrective therapy.

The assertion

Studying child sex offenders, a review of qualitative research studies published between 1982 and 2001 concluded that pedophiles use cognitive distortions to meet personal needs, justifying abuse by making excuses, redefining their actions as love and mutuality, and exploiting the power imbalance inherent in all adult-child relationships.[1] Other cognitive distortions are said to include the idea of "children as sexual beings," "uncontrollability of sexuality," and "sexual entitlement-bias."[2]

Common cognitive distortions include:[3]

  • Just looking at a naked child is not as bad as touching and will probably not affect the child as much
  • Professionals pursue some people involved in sexual activities with children to make themselves look good
  • Some people turn to sexual activities involving children because they were deprived of sex from adult partners
  • Many men commit sex offences involving children because they were sexually abused as a child
  • Having sexual thoughts and fantasies about a child isn’t all that bad because at least it is not really hurting the child.
  • Children are innocent and want to please adults.
  • For many men their sex offences involving children were the result of stress and the offending behaviour helped to relieve that stress.
  • Children, who have been involved in sexual activities with, and for, adults, will eventually get over it and get on with their lives.


The concept is used by researchers who are themselves prone to cognitive distortion, and rests on the ingrained and unsupported clinical belief that statements made by minor-attracted people and/or unrepentant convicts are necessarily distorted. Scholarly rebuttals to such "distortions", although categorical, highly disputed, subjectively and ahistorically (if at all) qualified, therefore attain the status of "scientific fact" without challenge from any self-respecting clinician. From this point, it is incredibly easy to establish that such "distortions" are particularly common among those who express an attraction towards minors, as anything that conflicts with the prevailing clinical bias, or even passes the lips of a minor-attracted or convicted individual can be rendered distorted with extreme prejudice. This "cognitive distortion" argument has been described as an absurd, self-fulfilling circular.

Agner Fog writes that "The rationale behind cognitive therapy is that the world view of the therapist is believed to be right and when the world view of the patient is different he is said to suffer from cognitive distortion".[4] Shadd and Mann (2006) cast doubt on whether cognitive distortions lead to offending or reoffending. They also argue that the pathologization of cognitive distortions is inappropriate. In their view, excuses are a normal and healthy aspect of human behavior.[5] In his book, Howitt is largely critical of the theories, casting doubt upon their applicability in particular.[6] Gannon and Polaschek claim that "the popularity of the cognitive distortion hypothesis is due to factors other than its empirical validity."[7]

See also


  1. Lawson, L. (2003), "Isolation, gratification, justification: offenders' explanations of child molesting", Issues Ment Health Nurs 24, pages 695–705
  2. Mihailides, S, Devilly GJ, Ward T,. (2004), "Implicit cognitive distortions and sexual offending" Sex Abuse 16,4, pages 333–50
  3. Howitt, D., & Sheldon, K. (2007). "The role of cognitive distortions in paedophilic offending: Internet and contact offenders compared," Psychology, Crime & Law, 13, 469-486.
  4. Fog, A., “Paraphilias and Therapy,” Nordisk Sexologi, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 236-242, 1992.
  5. Shadd, M. & Mann, R. (2006). "A fundamental attribution error? Rethinking cognitive distortions," Legal and Criminology Psychology, 11(2), 155-177.
  6. Howitt, D., (1995). "Paedophiles and Sexual Offences against Children", John Wiley and Sons, Quoted: "There are dangers, of course, in promoting the view that all child abusers lie and distort. The obvious one is the problem of how to deal with an honest offender."
  7. Gannon, T. A., & Polaschek, D. L. L. (2006). "Cognitive distortions in child molesters: A re-examination of key theories and research," Clinical Psychology Review, 26(8), 1000-1019.