Example of Emotional Reasoning in the Media

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Last Updated on November 24, 2023 by the thought method co.

Emotional reasoning when you confuse feelings for facts. It can make you stressed and is common in people with depression and anxiety. You learn the unhelpful habit from influences in your environment. Here you will see an example of emotional reasoning in the media so you know how to spot it (and reject it).

Media distortion

An example of emotional reasoning is in a Washington Post article titled “13 percent of Americans over 50 are addicted to processed foods.” Ironically, this article is in their wellbeing section. The opening paragraph states:

“Thirteen percent of the over-50 population, or about 1 in 8 people over 50, cannot control their consumption of highly processed foods.”

When it comes to control, it is essential to our mental health that we prioritize what we can control and work to accept what we cannot control. Someone reading this article will think they cannot control what they eat. The illusion of non-control will lead to complacency and hopelessness.

Someone might want to change their eating habits but feel like they can’t because, from this article, they have real world evidence proving that people cannot control their food consumption. They might think, “welp, I wish I could stop eating process foods but I am doomed and cannot control it.” They give away their power.

In reality, this article is skewed. It does not report accuracy and, instead, is an example of emotional reasoning (confusing feelings for facts).

The Reality

The Washington Post article included reference to a study from the University of Michigan. The opening from the report from the University of Michigan states:

“Highly processed foods like sweetened beverages,
chips, and fast food can be addictive for some
people, just like cigarettes and alcohol. Symptoms
of addiction to highly processed food include
feeling a loss of control over consumption…”

As you can see, there was no actual loss of control over consumption, there was a feeling of loss of control.

Whats the big deal?

What the Washington Post article did was confuse feelings for facts. It said there was a loss of control instead of saying there was a feeling of a loss of control. It would be like someone saying they feel like they are the king of the world and the Washington Post reporting that that person was king of the world. Understandably a silly example, but it goes to show that feelings are not reality.

The University of Michigan study found that the feeling of being unable to control food consumption was more prevalent in people who felt isolated and described themselves as having poor mental health. Since emotional reasoning is common in people with depression and anxiety, then those people The Washington Post is forwarding a thought distortion of people with poor mental health and posing it as a fact in their wellbeing section.

Most people don’t click on the study. They read a short snippet in the Washington Post, a trusted source. It validates them in their emotional reasoning—that they can’t control their food consumption—and they call it a day.

This strengthens the same thoughts that are keeping them from weight loss goals and in a looping of negativity and failed diets. Which can lead someone to thinking they are a failure or they can’t achieve goals.

The media is a multi-trillion dollar machine that benefits from you not controlling your food consumption or your emotions.

There is a lot you can’t control, but you can control what you eat. And you can reduce cravings for processed foods. I know, I am coming up on 10 years of maintaining a 40 pound weight-loss.

Want to know if you have emotional reasoning in your thought habits (and how prevalent it is)? Take this emotional reasoning quiz here.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

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