Fallacy Friday!

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Shifting the Burden of Proof!

(related to “appeal to ignorance”) This fallacy occurs when the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side of an argument. In a logical...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Don't play with emotions: Appeal to Emotion


The appeal to emotion fallacy occurs when someone attempts to invoke an emotional response (pity, fear, anger, etc.) instead of using a valid or compelling argument. Almost all humans are affected by emotion, and that makes these appeals exceptionally common and effective (think “scare tactics”). However, they are flawed and dishonest because they don't actually address the issue. Appeals to emotion are often the basis for censorship and bigotry. (Other names include argumentum ad misericordiam, playing to emotions, appeal to pity, "E" for effort, noble effort, sob story)

How it applies: If someone grows up thinking that accepting evolution means you will burn in hell or that you will automatically become an atheist, then their fear of hell will cause them to reject evolution, regardless of the evidence with which they are presented. (This is also a false dichotomy.)

Examples: 

  • A telephone company ad shows a small, sweet grandmother sitting patiently by the phone waiting for her loved ones to call.
  • A peanut butter ad suggests that "Choosy mothers choose our brand of peanut butter."
  • A political ad shows the candidate wearing a hard hat at the steel workers' company picnic and pitching horseshoes in her back yard.
  • Any “Think of the Children” argument:
  • "If you care about your children's success in school, and in fact if you care about your children's future at all, you will buy this set of encyclopedias."
  • Luke didn't want to eat his sheep's brains with chopped liver and broccoli, but his father told him to think about the poor, starving children in a third world country who weren't fortunate enough to have any food at all.
  • While showing a very expensive home to a young couple, the realtor says, "You owe it to yourself and your children to buy the very best."

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