Wishful thinking is both a cognitive bias and a logical fallacy. It consists of believing something, or believing something to be more likely than it in fact is, because one wants it to be true.
As a logical fallacy, it is similar to the appeal to emotion, except that the appeal is to one's own emotion rather than only to the emotions of the audience. The fallacy makes a desire for the conclusion to be a premise; that is, it takes the following form:
- I want P to be true.
- Therefore, P.
A person engaging in wishful thinking almost never states it so bluntly, however. Instead, that person may cherry-pick the evidence or otherwise distort reality to support the desired conclusion.
There is also reverse wishful thinking, which is Murphy's law as a cognitive bias.
- Atheists engage in wishful thinking when they disbelieve in God because they do not want Him to exist, rather than because they have any direct evidence for the nonexistence of God.
- Homosexuals engage in wishful thinking when they accuse those who oppose and criticize homosexuality and homosexual "marriage" of being "homophobes" and "secretly gay" because, despite having no evidence to prove their claims, they want to believe that their opponents are "self-hating homosexuals", even though those homosexuals who make such accusations are not mind-readers. Proponents of homosexuality delude themselves into thinking that their opponents are the "opposite" of what they really are because those homosexuals do not want to believe that homophobia is not a widespread condition or that their opponents have legitimate reasons for not supporting or agreeing with the homosexual lifestyle and its resulting consequences. They also completely ignore the copious evidence of the harms caused by same-sex "marriage" to both individuals and society.
- Believers in discredited notions such as evolution/abiogenesis cling to their beliefs despite the lack of evidence for them and despite the abundant contrary evidence.
- "If we could just ban all guns and ammunition, then there would be very little crime." The concept of a place where "people can be sure no one has a gun" has always been left wing "unicorn utopia" wishful thinking pollyanna fantasy of the Anti-self-defense movement, for the simple reason that criminals by their nature never follow laws. So-called politically correct "gun free zones" are known to Second Amendment self-defense supporting conservative patriots, veterans, preppers and gun enthusiasts via the politically corrected term "free fire zones". "Free fire zones" are where criminals, gangs, drug dealers, mafia, yakuza, triads, murderers, young mass murderers, and terrorists are free to fire at will on defenseless disarmed conservatives and never armed liberals.
- The eager willingness of liberal, agnostic and atheistic biblical scholars and exegetes in higher criticism to take speciously apparent errors in the Bible (carelessly invented superficial difficulties which do not actually exist) as an unexamined pretext for rejecting its authority and the authority of the very Church which defends its divine inspiration as inerrant truth.
- Liberal Christians do not start with the Bible to determine what they believe. Instead, they simply decide what they want to believe, cherry-pick Bible verses that appear to support their chosen beliefs, and often "interpret" even those verses beyond recognition. This is an example of self-generated Christianity, i.e., "Christianity" developed to meet one's own demand profile.