The Most Common Logical Fallacies You Need To Know 

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Researchers publishing in the journal Springer Nature called misinformation “a severe threat to public interests” because it spreads incorrect, made-up, or partial stories across the media with the goal of misleading audiences. You can find misinformation on a variety of topics, from the actions of foreign leaders to the perceived threats of certain medical treatments like vaccines. 

False information runs rampant across the web because it isn’t always easy to spot. Not only do fake news outlets strive to look reputable, but they also use a variety of logical fallacies designed to persuade audiences. If you can identify these logical fallacies, then you can better spot misleading information or poorly made arguments. This can help you make better decisions about the media you consume and share.

Learn more about logical fallacies and how to identify some of the most common ones.

What Is a Logical Fallacy?

A logical fallacy is known as an “error in reasoning.” It is presented as a logical argument with the hope that audiences don’t think too deeply about what the user is trying to say. Logical fallacies rely on tactics like oversimplification, generalization, and omitting information. They can be highly emotional because they are designed to persuade audiences without using facts. 

You can identify a logical fallacy because the form and or the content doesn’t make sense. A logical fallacy with an incorrect form might ask you to equate two unrelated things. A fallacy with incorrect content will omit information or mislead audiences. 

What Are the Types of Logical Fallacies?

There are two main types of logical fallacies that you may encounter: formal and informal. Most logical fallacies should fall into one of these two categories.

  • Formal: These fallacies use deductive reasoning to help audiences draw specific conclusions. The conclusions are often incorrect or misleading. For example: if breakfast cereal is defined as small bits of food floating in a cold liquid, then gazpacho is a breakfast cereal. 
  • Informal: These fallacies don’t draw conclusions, but create an argument that allows the audiences to form their own ideas. For example: the witness says he heard a siren, but can you trust someone who wears their headphones all the time — even in court? 

There are dozens of formal and informal fallacies that are all designed to attack the argument or opponent. Because fallacies are so diverse, they are often hard to spot.

What Are Some Examples of Logical Fallacies?

Hundreds of fallacies are all used to undermine arguments and win over audiences. They are so plentiful that it is nearly impossible to go over each one. Here are a few of the most common fallacies, along with examples of how they are used. This can boost your critical thinking so you know how to spot illogical arguments. 

Straw Man Fallacy 

A straw man argument is also referred to as a straw person fallacy. This argument takes the most extreme version possible to overdramatize an argument. 

For example, if a political candidate supported increased paths to citizenship for immigrants, their opponent might claim they want to completely open the borders. The opponent would paint a picture of America where criminals were allowed to cross into the country and an excessive number of immigrants took American jobs. 

Middle Ground Fallacy

A middle-ground fallacy is also known as a false compromise. It is based on the idea that the only way to resolve an issue is by meeting in the middle. There is no winner in the argument and there is no such thing as right or wrong.

For example, John says all cats can fly. Kate says no cats can fly. With the middle ground fallacy, the conclusion is that half of cats can fly — tigers and housecats. 

This fallacy forces both parties to accept an incorrect compromise for the argument to end. 

False Dilemma Fallacy 

Is the idea that there are only two solutions and the opponent needs to choose one. It is a fallacy because it doesn’t recognize the nuance that every problem likely has more than two solutions.

For example, a bride might say that the couple will either have an extravagant wedding or get married at the courthouse. This is a false dilemma because the couple could have a small backyard event, a formal dinner with a few close relations, or elope. There are more options available than are being presented. 

Ad Hominem Fallacy 

This fallacy is known as attacking the person. Instead of focusing on the issue, the person who uses an ad hominem attack will try to discredit the speaker or the source.

For example, a defense attorney using an ad hominem attack against a doctor as a medical witness might discredit them by pointing out their poor performance in medical school or recent malpractice lawsuits against them. The jury would then question whether the doctor is a valuable source of information. 

Bandwagon Fallacy

This fallacy is based on the idea that something is correct or good just because a lot of people support it.

For example, someone who runs a Flat Earth Facebook group might claim that its 5,000 members support this theory. They are trying to use their numbers to create a bandwagon effect so other people will believe this concept. 

Fallacy Fallacy 

Also known as “argument from fallacy,” this is the idea that because someone made a poor argument or used a logical fallacy, their conclusion is false. An opponent might call out the fallacy and use that to discredit the argument as a whole. People who make good arguments sometimes include fallacies, but their stance can still be true. 

For example, you can claim that because your opponent used an ad hominem attack during an immigration debate, their argument for creating a path to citizenship is void. 

Burden of Proof Fallacy 

With this fallacy, a person will make a claim and then challenge others to disprove it, rather than defending it themselves. This places the burden of proof on the opponent rather than the person who is trying to make an argument. 

For example, a person might state that all humans can hold their breath underwater for 10 minutes. They will then challenge other people to disprove that idea instead of providing evidence about lung capacity and research backing up their claims. 

Anecdotal Evidence Fallacy 

This fallacy relies on individual stories and single instances to support a claim. One anecdote is not considered valid evidence because it is a single instance that doesn’t provide a reasonable sample size. 

For example, a person might apply for one job and immediately get hired. They conclude that finding jobs is not hard and no one should be unemployed. This negates evidence that most people apply to several jobs before receiving offers. 

Appeal to Authority Fallacy

This is also known as “ad verecundiam” and references an authority figure who agrees with the argument. It doesn’t matter whether that authority figure is right or not — or even if they agree with that idea — their position or perceived expertise is meant to win over the audience.

For example, someone might claim that it is OK to go outside without sunscreen because Gwyneth Paltrow said so. Another person might say they robbed a bank because God told them to.

Skills for Identifying Logical Fallacies

You don’t have to memorize every single logical fallacy to call out poorly crafted arguments. Instead, you can boost some soft skills to better identify warning signs that a message is biased or meant to persuade rather than inform. 

One of the top skills to hone is critical thinking, which encourages you to question assumptions and information. Not only can critical thinking teach you to question a message, but it can also help you evaluate the information’s source for credibility. Even if an argument makes sense, you might question its validity if the person presenting it is biased. 

Additionally, it’s important to consider counter-arguments against the information and better understand where each side is coming from. 

Finally, good research skills can help you fact-check information and help you find authoritative, unbiased sources. This will allow you to stick to the facts instead of falling for fallacies. Prioritizing soft skills in education like critical thinking, creative problem solving, and research can help students counter misinformation they find on the web.

The Importance of Understanding Logical Fallacies

Anyone who consumes media on the web, on TV, or in print form like the newspaper needs to be aware of logical fallacies. This will help them identify fake news or information that is designed to persuade and mislead rather than inform. Misinformation runs rampant across the web, which is why critical thinking and good research skills are essential in the modern era. Knowing about logical fallacies and how to identify them can make you a critical reader who stops fake news in its tracks.

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