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<< Thinking fallacies >>


Many of our natural thinking reflexes cause us to react in ways that can sabotage a happy and successful life. Have you ever been "sold" something silly, or been fooled into believed a lie?

We learn to believe. Some folks believe absurdities and hold on to them, into wars. We have been lured and guided, or bulldogged and bullied, into accepting "thinking fallacies" that were affirmed and avowed by "them".

Once integrated into our thinking, these FALLACIES become "neuro-logical" and etched into our brain.

As understanding follows experience, how many times will our "thinking fallacies" trip us up before we discover and disarm them.

A « thinking fallacy » is an error of reasoning. It either has an error in the logical structure of its deduction (formal fallacy), or it is falsely induced from one or more of its premises (informal fallacy).

You can learn a whole lot more about this idea - and thereby become a very strategic leader, ready and able to foil any plot and lead the way to reason - by reading Humbug! - an Ebook by Australians Jef and Theo Clark. Subtitled The skeptic's field guide to spotting fallacies in thinking - they explain 3 dozen ways that we are fooled (click here).

Here are a few of the morecommon examples of « Thinking fallacies ». You'll find a description of how fallacies works, and some examples. How many are you subject to?

1. Circular reasoning: In the circular reasoning fallacy, you assume to be true what you are supposed to be proving.
  • This product is the best because it is better than any other product I know.
  • A more complicated example: A) Our engineers agree that this product is perfect. B) But there is an article in yesterday's newspaper saying that it's defective. C) That article must be wrong. How could this product have a defect if it's perfect?

2. Post hoc reasoning: Also called false cause reasoning. It argues because A preceded B, therefore A caused B.

  • Plants that survive in metal soils produce Histidine. Histidine must be the reason that they can survive the harmful soil.
  • My red shirt must lucky because every time I wear it to a soccer game, my team wins.

3. Gamblers fallacy: A related idea to the Post hoc reasoning, this argument assumes a departure from what occurs on average or that the long term will be corrected in the short term.

  • Imagine a coin toss experiment - If the result for the first five throws is head, the probability of getting a tail in the sixth throw must be very high.
  • Or - We have nothing and therefore have nothing to lose

4. The slippery slope synopsis: An argument that falsely assumes one thing must necessarily lead to another in a linear fashion.

  • Company A has been growing much faster than company B in the past five years. Therefore, soon, A will surpass B.
  • Or I've done everything I had t do and so I'm sure that promotion will be mine tomorrow.

5. The loaded questions: This is a question constructed in such a way that agreement or disagreement both imply agreeing with it.

  • Are you going to admit that you're wrong?
  • Or - Did you enjoy spoiling the dinner for everybody?

6. Argument by authority: An argument based on the source of an assertion

  • This medicine is effective because my doctor said it is good.

7. Personal attack : A related fallacy to the previous one, here the argument is also based on the source.

  • Jerry recommended this brand of cheese. But I distrust Jerry. So I won't buy this cheese.

8. Appeal to common belief: A false argument that concludes a proposition is true because many others, or all the people, believe it to be true.

  • Since 60% of the people polled believed in the Bible, the Bible must be true.
  • Fifty million Elvis fans can't be wrong.
  • Doctors recommended this medicine than any other medicine. You should buy it.
  • Brand X vacuum cleaners are the leading brand in America. You should buy Brand X vacuums today.

9. Appeal to tradition is the same type of fallacious thinking : A logical fallacy in which someone proclaims accuracy by noting - "This is how it's always been done."

  • This must be right because we've always done it this way.
  • Your idea is bad idea because it has no historical precedent. If it were good we'd have done it that way before.

10. Argue from ignorance: A logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false, or that a premise is false only because it has not been proven true.

  • Nobody here saw it. So it could not have happened.

11. Shifting the Burden of Proof : This is where the onus is now to disprove a premise that is accepted.

  • God exists. Unless someone can prove that God doesn't exist, we have to accept the truth that He does.

12. Argument from incredulity : This is also similar to the previous one in which limits are put on what can be believed.

  • What he said is very hard to accept. It simply cannot be true.

13. Hasty generalization: An argument that makes a generalization out of insufficient numbers.

  • The weather must be perfect in San Diego all the time. I've been there three times, and the sky was blue and the temperature ideal ever day.
  • Three patients have had reactions to this vaccine. It must be unsafe.

14. A sweeping generalization is a reverse type of fallacy: Here we apply a general rule to a specific case.

  • Our class has raised the participants an average of 100 points in their test scores. You had a score of 600 so if you take our class, you will score 700 in your next tests for sure.

15. Biased sample: The conclusion is drawn based on a biased sample that is not representative of the entire population.

  • I can't believe our restaurant isn't the best in town. All our regular customers love us.

16. The fallacy of the alternative dismiss: It is either A or B. If it is A, it therefore is not B.

  • Number x belongs to a set that contains numerals that are multiples of 2 or 3. It is a multiple of 2, therefore it cannot be a multiple of 3.

17. Affirming the consequent: If P, then Q. If Q. Therefore, P.

  • All humans are mortal. That's where it's at. Meow-Meow is mortal. She is therefore human. Or is she a cat?

18. Arguing from negative value: If A, then B. Not A. Therefore not B.

  • I close my eyes when I'm sleeping. I'm not sleeping, so my eyes must be opened.
  • When I was little I was told that an Angel always pushes a dropped pencil down to the floor. Now I know that angels do not exist. Therefore a pencil cannot drop down to the floor.


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