Logical Fallacies are used when we form an argument using a misconception or presumption. An argument will be invalid if the logic used to reach the conclusion is false. This is regardless of whether the assumptions of that argument are found true.
People use heuristics or mental shortcuts when they aim to make quick decisions. Educated guessing, stereotyping, profiling or the good old common sense are common examples of heuristics. But taking mental shortcuts when thinking of solutions may lead us to messy situations! We should never be content with “heuristics” as these can never be a substitute for formal logic.
Logical Fallacies Explained
Like a moth to a flame, people are tempted to use logical fallacies to sway others to their opinions. Politicians use ad hominem when they discredit their rivals during elections. If their opponent brings in stronger positions during a debate, they relentlessly succumb to personal attacks. Lawyers use loaded questions to their advantage as well. So, when a person on the stand answers that kind of query, it is likely that the court will find them guilty.
Want to learn more about logical fallacies? Here are 24 logical fallacies that you should understand and attempt to avoid at all cost.
A version in text format is below the infographic.
Logical Fallacies You Should Learn and Avoid
- STRAWMAN: Misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack.
- SLIPPERY SLOPE: You claim that if A is permitted to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not occur.
- SPECIAL PLEADING: Making an exception to a rule when your claim was shown to be false.
- THE GAMBLER’S FALLACY: You claim that ‘runs’ occur (like getting 7 red numbers in a row at a roulette table), not realizing that each spin (event) is completely independent.
- BLACK-OR-WHITE (AKA FALSE DICHOTOMY): You presented two alternative states as the absolute, when in fact more possibilities exist (the “grey area”)
- FALSE CAUSE (AKA Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc (Literally: “After this, therefore because of this”): You presumed that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.
- AD HOMINEM: You attacked your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument. Politicians use this frequently (among many other logical fallacies, of course).
- LOADED QUESTION: You pose a question on unjustified or assumed evidence. It is purposefully meant to put the respondent on edge.
- BANDWAGON: You appeal to the fact that many people do something as an attempted form of validation.
- BEGGING THE QUESTION: You present a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in the premise. (Example: The Bible is true because God exists, and God exists because the Bible says so, therefore the Bible is true since God exists…)
- APPEAL TO AUTHORITY: You said that because an authority thinks something, it must be true.
- APPEAL TO NATURE: You argue that because something is ‘natural’ it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, good, or ideal.
- COMPOSITION/DIVISION: You assume that one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it; or that the whole must apply to its parts.
- ANECDOTAL: You used a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence.
- APPEAL TO EMOTION: You attempted to manipulate an emotional response in place of a compelling argument.
- TU QUOQUE: You avoided having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser. You answered criticism with criticism.
- BURDEN OF PROOF: Burden of proof lies not with the person making the claim, but with someone else to disprove. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
- NO TRUE SCOTSMAN: You make what is known as an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flows of your argument.
- TEXAS SHARPSHOOTER: You cherry-picked a data cluster to suit your argument. Or found a pattern to fit a presumption. (Example: Climate change deniers zooming in on a small part of the graph and ignoring the trend in the entire data set.)
- FALLACY FALLACY: You presumed that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself must be wrong.
- PERSONAL INCREDULITY: Because you found something difficult to understand, or are unaware of how it works, you made out like it’s probably not true. (Example: Bill O’Reilly doesn’t understand how the tides work… therefore God did it.)
- AMBIGUITY: You used a double meaning or ambiguity of language to mislead or misrepresent the truth.
- GENETIC: You judged something as either good or bad on the basis of where it comes from, or from whom it came.
- MIDDLE GROUND: You claimed that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes must be the truth.