Black and white thinking otherwise known as dichotomous thinking or cognitive rigidity is a bit of a problematic term, as it has the danger of reinforcing traditional stereotypes about autistic people and our diverse characteristics. It is, however, a phrase that came up in my own clinical diagnosis and I found it interesting and thought provoking, though I hadn’t ever considered it to be a feature of my personality until then. So, it’s here for people to consider whether it applies to them or interests them and if it doesn’t, ignore it – the same applies to every entry in this glossary, of course!

ADHD, OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder – these are also conditions that are often associated with black and white, all or nothing, thinking.

It suggests that your views are firm, rigid, in one direction or the other, either of yourself or others, or both. It can involve making sweeping judgements that leave little in the way of alternatives in between – no grey areas.

A simple example of mine: ‘I hate cats because they’re selfish and aloof. I love dogs because they’re loyal and loving’. I’m embarrassed to say that this was my view since I was scratched in the eye by our cat when I was very young.

But now I think about it, I realise I do know a few really cute, friendly and cuddly cats that are every bit as lovely as dogs. So, there ARE grey areas, if I take the fear of cats out of the equation. Everything isn’t as clear cut and rigid, nothing and no-one is either all good(surely with the exception ofMr Kipling’s French Fancies?) or all bad (there cannot be any good side to the skin on custard).I’m not putting this very well at all, and my examples are intentionally non-inflammatory (except to cat lovers) so…

I’ll put a link to a recent, interesting academic article on rigidity, which I hope will do a much better job than me and, in the meantime, I’m going off to look at some cute cat videos…NOT!  What does it take to be rigid? Reflections on the notion of rigidity in autism