Fallacies create gaps in logic that can invalidate arguments and lead to irrational conclusions, and they're not always easy to spot. Learn to spot and avoid four common fallacies to prevent yourself from drawing irrational conclusions.
- It may not seem like it, but wise, rationale conclusions can come from disagreement. Logical fallacies are flaws in reasoning that prevent this. Sometimes they're intentional, like manipulation, sometimes unintentional, like mistakes. When you can spot them you can separate fact from fiction, make better arguments yourself, and set aside illogical arguments that others make that could derail your decisions. Although the list of fallacies is long we'll tackle four that commonly lurk at work. They're sneaky, often going undetected. The first one is Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. This is Latin for after that, therefore caused by it. You see this fallacy when two events happen consecutively, and the claim is that the former event caused the latter. Now Wednesday occurred before Thursday, but we know that Wednesday didn't cause Thursday. Here's how it works. We know that X happened before Y. First Martin was hired as CEO to replace Janel, then our sales of widgets dropped. We know Y happened and was caused by something. Something caused our sales of widgets to drop therefore we think, or argue, that X caused Y. Replacing Janel with Martin caused our sales of widgets to drop. Watch out for confusing correlation with causation. Number two, an Ad Hominem fallacy occurs when you ignore the logic, or content, of an argument and instead attack the person making it. It works like this. Person one is claiming X. Marcus claims the numbers for the proposed IT system don't add up. Person two claims person one is an idiot. Sarah points out that Marcus doesn't have an MBA nor is he even in finance, therefore X isn't true, therefore the numbers do add up and we should invest in the IT system. Watch out for dismissing valid evidence from people you don't agree with. Number three, a Straw Man fallacy occurs when you substitute someone's actual position, or argument, with the distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented straw man version of it. It works like this. Person one makes claim X. Monique suggests the job should be open to candidates with less than five years experience. Person two restates person one's claim in a distorted way. Stan responds, so what you're saying Monique is that you think we should eliminate all qualifications. Person two then attacks the distorted version of the claim. Stan then attacks, no we're not going to use Monique's no qualifications necessary standard. Look out for sneaky argument substitutions. Number four, hasty generalization is a fallacy where conclusions are drawn from limited evidence. It works like this. Small sample size X is taken from population P. For example, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey were college dropouts. Conclusion Z is drawn from small sample X and applied to all population P. From sample X if you made the statement, dropping out of college won't negatively impact your career that would be a hasty generalization. Watch out for relying too heavily on your own experience and jumping to conclusions. Now that you know what to look for you'll spot fallacies in people you disagree with. But if you want to take the true critical thinking test, over the next month seek, find, and eliminate fallacies in your own thinking.
- Comparing critical and strategic thinking
- Minimizing bad judgements
- Recognizing cognitive bias
- Using counterfactual thinking
- Overcoming loss aversion
- Avoiding logical fallacies
- Creating a culture of critical thinking