Friday, October 2, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Overgeneralization!

(Hasty Generalization, Fallacy of Exclusion, Faulty Sign, Hasty Conclusion, Jumping to a Conclusion, Misunderstanding Statistics or Non-Representative Sample, Composition/Division, Sweeping Generalization).

A type of association fallacy, this occurs when you draw a conclusion without sufficient evidence, often using one or two examples as a basis of judgment for all examples. It is frequently applied to group behavior in assuming that the behavior displayed by some is indicative or unique to that entire group when it is actually common to many groups. A small incidence is mistaken for a larger trend.

Drawing conclusions is not the problem; inductive thinking is a valid type of reasoning. However, induction fails when it doesn’t include enough information for the conclusion to be valid. Broad generalizations should only be made after a significant amount of data has been collected and analyzed.

Racism is the most obvious example of overgeneralization. This is often perpetuated by the media which selects behavior and experiences most likely to draw attention (to boost their ratings) by being “shocking” or otherwise “unusual” and, by definition, are not often indicative of the actual group.


“That guy is wearing a Raiders jacket and baggy pants. I’ll bet he’s a gang member.”

A neglected child sees how well her friend’s family gets along and generalizes that to all families but her own.

“Some college student was tailgating me all the way up North Main Street last night. All college students are lousy drivers, and we should pull their driver’s licenses until they either grow up, learn to drive, or graduate!”

A child’s friend is too busy to hang out one night, and the child generalizes that night alone to her entire life: she is always lonely, and she can never count on her friends.

“My neighbor Jaminder Singh wears a long beard and a turban and speaks a funny language. Where there's smoke there's fire. This is war, our country is in danger, and that’s all the evidence we need to string him up!’”

If you grow up in the very white state of Idaho and only see Blacks on TV, you are likely to think that most Black men are athletes, gangster rappers or comedians.

Most complain about how badly women drive, and if one examines the driving habits of women one finds that indeed they do get in many accidents. However, they get in fewer accidents than men.

Assuming you are likely to be shot if you visit NYC, when, in fact, fewer people are murdered, per capita, in NYC than in most rural American small towns.

“All of those movie stars are really rude. I asked Kevin Costner for his autograph in a restaurant in Westwood the other evening, and he told me to get lost.”

“Pit Bulls are actually gentle, sweet dogs. My next door neighbor has one and his dog loves to romp and play with all the kids in the neighborhood!”

A child takes a single difficult math test and decides that all math tests must be difficult.

My father smoked four packs of cigarettes a day since age fourteen and lived until age sixty-nine. Therefore, smoking really can’t be that bad for you.

Four out of five dentists recommend Happy Glossy Smiley toothpaste brand. Therefore, it must be great.

“All girls like pink.”

A man sees a single ballet wherein all the dancers are women. He decides based on this one show that all ballet dancers are women.

A woman is unsuccessful in love. Every guy she’s ever dated (all fifteen of them) turned out to be a jerk. She decides that all men (all 3.3 billion of them) must be jerks.

A man owns a Ford truck. It breaks down on him. A friend of his reports that he once had a Ford that also broke down. The two men reason that all Fords must be unreliable, shoddy vehicles.

A woman visits a new doctor. He is rather rude to her and isn’t much help at all. She goes to get a second opinion and has to wait for a long time before she is seen. She decides that all doctors are shoddy and she won’t be visiting them anymore unless she’s absolutely has to.

Jessica must be rich or have rich parents, because she belongs to ZXQ, and ZXQ is the richest sorority on campus.

I'd like to hire you, but you're an ex-felon and statistics show that 80% of ex-felons recidivate.

Every course I took in college was well-organized. Therefore, my college education was well-organized.

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