The construct of cognitive errors is clinically relevant for cognitive therapy of mood disorders. Beck's universality hypothesis postulates the relevance of negative cognitions in all subtypes of mood disorders, as well as positive cognitions for manic states. This hypothesis has rarely been empirically addressed for patients presenting bipolar affective disorder (BD). In-patients (n = 30) presenting with BD were interviewed, as were 30 participants of a matched control group. Valid and reliable observer-rater methodology for cognitive errors was applied to the session transcripts. Overall, patients make more cognitive errors than controls. When manic and depressive patients were compared, parts of the universality hypothesis were confirmed. Manic symptoms are related to positive and negative cognitive errors. These results are discussed with regard to the main assumptions of the cognitive model for depression; thus adding an argument for extending it to the BD diagnostic group, taking into consideration specificities in terms of cognitive errors. Clinical implications for cognitive therapy of BD are suggested.