Fallacies are mistaken beliefs based on unsound arguments. They derive from reasoning that is logically incorrect, thus undermining an argument’s validity.
There are many different types of fallacies, and their variations are almost endless. Given their extensive nature, we’ve curated a list of common fallacies so you’ll be able to develop sound conclusions yourself, and quickly identify fallacies in others’ writings and speeches.
Here are some common examples of fallacies:
Appeal to Authority – These fallacies occur when someone accepts a truth on blind faith just because someone they admire said it.
- Katherine loves Tom Cruise. One day, she meets Tom Cruise and he tells her unicorns live in New York City. Without searching to find out if fairy tales have sprung to life in the midtown Manhattan, she believes it to be true.
- Princess Kate wears Alexander McQueen. Are you trying to say you have better fashion sense than a royal princess?
Appeal to Ignorance – These fallacies occur when someone asserts a claim that must be accepted because no one else can prove otherwise.
- People have been praying to God for years. No one can prove He doesn’t exist. Therefore, He exists.
- Since the students have no questions concerning the topics discussed in class, the students are ready for a test.
Appeal to Pity – These fallacies occur when someone seeks to gain acceptance by pointing out an unfortunate consequence that befalls them.
- I know we don’t love each other. But, if we don’t get married it will crush my mother. You know she has a weak heart. Do you really want to do that to her?
- If we don’t adopt that puppy today, they might put him down. Do you want to be responsible for that?
Begging the Question – Also called Circular Reasoning. This type of fallacy occurs when the conclusion of an argument is assumed in the phrasing of the question itself.
- If aliens didn’t steal my newspaper, who did?
- I have a right to free speech so I can say what I want and you shouldn’t try to stop me.
False Dilemma – These fallacies occur when someone is only given two choices for possible alternatives when more than two exist.
- In Latin America, only two countries offer travel and tourism options: Mexico and Guatemala.
- Katie is one of 16,400 students on her college campus. The only boys worth dating are Dave and Steve.
Red Herring – These fallacies occur when someone uses irrelevant information to distract from the argument.
- How is talking about vaccinations going to help us find a cure for cancer?
- There are starving children in Africa. Eat your carrots.
Slippery Slope – These fallacies occur when someone assumes a very small action will lead to extreme outcomes.
- If we allow our 14 year-old to have her first date tonight, what’s next? A wedding, kids?
- If we teach Tommy how to drive the car, he’ll want to learn how to fly helicopters next!
Straw Man Fallacy – These fallacies occur when someone appears to be refuting the original point made, but is actually arguing a point that wasn’t initially made.
- President Trump doesn’t have middle class Americans in mind. He’s part of the upper echelon of America.
- “We should be doing more to make cars greener and more fuel efficient.” “Our cities are built for cars, do you want to effect the economy?”
Sweeping Generalizations – These fallacies occur when a very broad application is applied to a single premise.
- Dogs are good pets. Coyotes are dogs. Therefore, coyotes are good pets.
- Divorce is rampant in America. We only stand a 50 percent chance of survival. Therefore, we can’t get married.
Ad Hominem (Attacking the Person) – These fallacies occur when an acceptance or rejection of a concept is rejected based on its source, not its merit.
- That face cream can’t be good. Kim Kardashian is selling it.
- Don’t listen to Dave’s argument on gun control. He’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
Band Wagon – These fallacies occur when a proposition is claimed to be true or good solely because many people believe it to be so.
- Everyone on campus is wearing Air Jordans. I need to buy those sneakers.
- All my friends are doing a low carb diet. That must be the only way to lose weight.
Cum Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc – These fallacies occur when it is assumed that, because two things occur together, they must be related.
- People who eat oatmeal have healthy hearts.
- Roosters crow before sunrise. Therefore, roosters cause the sun to rise.
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc – These fallacies occur when it is assumed that, because one thing happened after another, it must have occurred as a result of it.
- Right when I sneezed, the power went off. I must’ve caused the outage.
- Mary wore her favorite necklace today and aced her spelling test. That necklace must be lucky.
Now that we’ve examined some common errors in reasoning, we hope you’ll be better equipped to recognize them when they come your way. In your future writings or debates, we hope this will serve as a guidepost to make sure you don’t fall into similar trappings. Good luck!