Understanding Various Types of Logical Fallacies
The best way to read logical fallacies is to familiarize yourself with the different types so that they can be easily identified when reading. If you’re unsure of what a logical fallacy is or what the most common types are, you can check out our video: Reading Logical Fallacies. Today, I’ll be going a little deeper into the subject with more examples and tips on how to read for logical fallacies in literature.
In circular reasoning, A is true because B is true, and B is true because A is true. I’ve provided a few examples; let’s see if you can spot the example of circular reasoning.
- Drinking eight cups of water is one way to keep hydrated.
- Going to bed early means that I’ll sleep well because I went to bed early.
- Wearing sunglasses outside will protect your eyes from the sun.
Option B is the logical fallacy. This example implies that I only sleep well by going to bed early, and I only go to bed early so I can sleep well. We all know that going to bed early does not automatically equate to a good night’s sleep and that other factors could be involved. In the other two options, both sentences are specific enough and account for other possible factors.
In hasty generalization, or overgeneralization, conclusions are drawn about a larger picture from a measly sample size.
Susan is checking out at the grocery store and sees a couple of magazines she might be interested in. One of them says that her favorite actress lives a healthy life due to her vegetarian diet, therefore everyone should switch to a vegetarian diet. Another magazine explains the health benefits of spinach and encourages readers to try it in their breakfast muffins; and a third offers tips for the latest fashion trends.
Can you identify which magazine ad uses overgeneralization?
The first magazine uses overgeneralization. The problem here is that this magazine assumes that there are not other diets that are healthy. While a vegetarian diet may work well for some, there are other diets out there that work just as well for others. A vegetarian diet is not the only way to live a healthy lifestyle. Better go with the muffin recipes, Susan!
In the case of slippery slope fallacy, that’s usually negative in outcome, a series of events are irrationally strung together to create a main outcome. Basically, you can have A, B, and C in a scenario and somehow make it all the way to Z, missing the in-between factors. Here are two examples. Can you identify the slippery slope fallacy?
- When Sara gets off of work at 5PM, she needs to catch the bus, go to the grocery store, get home in time to make dinner. After making dinner, she needs to feed her kids and get them to soccer practice all before 7PM. Sara hopes she gets off of work early and doesn’t have to miss any of her activities.
- If John wakes up in the morning and doesn’t have enough coffee to make a full cup, he will most assuredly have a bad day. His professor will give him a bad grade on the test, and he will ultimately have to drop the class.
Option B is correct. To suggest that missing his morning coffee one day results in having to drop a class is an example of slippery slope reasoning. One event has managed to unrealistically spiral into a bigger event that is not logically based on the first event. How John’s day goes is entirely up to him, regardless of if he’s had his morning coffee or not.
In straw man logic, a claim is distorted and used against the person making the original claim. Can you tell which option is an example of straw man logic?
- Andy is talking with his parents about going off for college rather than staying local. His mother responds by hysterically crying that her son is wanting to move away and never come back and that he must hate her. Andy becomes confused with how his mother concluded he hates her just by his mentioning maybe going off for college rather than staying local.
- Andy is talking with his parents about going off for college rather than staying local due to their better academic program. His mother responds by mentioning that out of state tuition is much higher than in-state, and she just read an article about students with loans have a lower chance of success in life.
Option A is the correct choice. In this example, Andy’s mother has taken his statement and twisted it to mean something else entirely, thus discrediting his original statement.
In Ad Hominem, an attack is made on someone’s personal character during an argument; of course, this personal attack does not contribute anything to the discussion at hand. Which of the choices below displays an example of Ad Hominem fallacy?
- John tells Andy that the sky is blue. Andy responds by asking, “What shade?”
- John tells Andy that the sky is blue. Andy responds by asking for proof.
- John tells Andy that the sky is blue. Andy responds by saying, “Yeah, and the grass is green. Your point?”
- John tells Andy that the sky is blue. Andy responds by saying that he doesn’t discuss the weather with morons.
Option D is an example of Ad Hominem fallacy. Whether or not John is rude has nothing to do with the fact that sky is blue. Andy’s comment was an attack on John’s personal character rather than information contributive to the argument.
A false dichotomy occurs when someone is presented with an ultimatum in an argument, usually consisting of two contrasting choices. Can you spot the correct example of false dichotomy in the options below?
- If you do your homework, you may go to the park with your friends.
- You can either do your homework or sit in your room for the weekend.
- Not doing your homework will most likely result in failing your class.
Option B is an example of false dichotomy. This statement presents an “either, or” decision and therefore ignores the possibility for neutrality in the situation.
Appeal to Emotion is when a speaker uses their words to manipulate the emotions of their audience, hoping to sway their thinking on the subject. A great example of appeal to emotion is during political campaigns. People argue with each other that if you aren’t voting for a certain candidate, then you’re voting against the rights of others. Both parties use this tactic to push their own agendas and in turn make the opposing sides feel guilty or ashamed for thinking the opposing way. Anytime you are reading, and it seems an emotion is being forced on the reader, it is appeal to emotion.
Equivocation, or doublespeak fallacy, is when a term that typically carries a lot of uncertainty in its meaning is used in more than one way, creating confusion during a debate. In other words, definitions are not clearly used and therefore the double meanings of words might be wrongly incorporated into an argument. See if you can find equivocation below:
- Mom, my brother keeps hitting me. How am I not supposed to hit him back?
- Mom, you said I should work on not being offensive, but my coach doesn’t want me to play defense anymore.
- Mom, sis keeps saying that I offended her, but all I did was roll my eyes a little bit.
Option B demonstrates doublespeak. The child is equivocating being rude to someone with playing on his team’s offense, perhaps in an attempt to get away with annoying his siblings.
Bandwagon appeal caters to the idea that everyone is partaking in the activity, so it must be OK. It can also be used to appeal overwhelmingly to a group’s emotional needs. A great example is 67% of drivers in America speed. Therefore, it is acceptable for me to speed while driving.
False Analogy usually consists of stereotypes and commercial advertisements. A couple of examples might be as follows:
- You can use coffee beans in your 15-bean soup.
- Children are like puppies, they both need to be disciplined.
- Fabric softener makes clothes extra soft because that’s what it’s for.
Both A and B are both of the examples of false analogies. People cannot ultimately be likened to dogs, and coffee beans do NOT belong in 15-bean soup. Option C is an example of circular reasoning.
If you enjoyed this video, be sure to give it a “like” and “subscribe” to our channel. Until next time!