Logical fallacies are errors in our thinking that can often lead to wrong or misguided beliefs.
Of course, none of us are perfect. We don’t have perfect knowledge and we don’t have perfect reasoning. However that shouldn’t stop us from trying to be a little smarter in how we think about the world.
This article provides a quick summary of the 20 most common logical fallacies people fall victim to everyday. You’ll probably find that a lot of these logical fallacies apply to your own thinking, as well as the arguments you have heard others make too.
Try your best to become more aware of these fallacies and hopefully you can work on becoming a smarter thinker in the future.
The 20 Most Common Logical Fallacies
1. Appeal to ignorance – Thinking a claim is true (or false) because it can’t be proven true (or false).
2. Ad hominem – Making a personal attack against the person saying the argument, rather than directly addressing the issue.
3. Strawman fallacy – Misrepresenting or exaggerating another person’s argument to make it easier to attack.
4. Bandwagon fallacy – Thinking an argument must be true because it’s popular.
5. Naturalistic fallacy – Believing something is good or beneficial just because it’s natural.
6. Cherry picking – Only choosing a few examples that support your argument, rather than looking at the full picture.
7. False dilemma – Thinking there are only two possibilities when there may be other alternatives you haven’t considered.
8. Begging the question – Making an argument that something is true by repeating the same thing in different words.
9. Appeal to tradition – Believing something is right just because it’s been done around for a really long time.
10. Appeal to emotions – Trying to persuade someone by manipulating their emotions – such as fear, anger, or ridicule – rather than making a rational case.
11. Shifting the burden of proof – Thinking instead of proving your claim is true, the other person has to prove it’s false.
12. Appeal to authority – Believing just because an authority or “expert” believes something than it must be true.
13. Red herring – When you change the subject to a topic that’s easier to attack.
14. Slippery slope – Taking an argument to an exaggerated extreme. “If we let A happen, then Z will happen.”
15. Correlation proves causation – Believing that just because two things happen at the same time, that one must have caused the other.
16. Anecdotal evidence – Thinking that just because something applies to you that it must be true for most people.
17. Equivocation – Using two different meanings of a word to prove your argument.
18. Non sequitur – Implying a logical connection between two things that doesn’t exist. “It doesn’t follow…”
19. Ecological fallacy – Making an assumption about a specific person based on general tendencies within a group they belong to.
20. Fallacy fallacy – Thinking just because a claim follows a logical fallacy that it must be false.
We’ve probably all fallen victim to these logical fallacies at least a few times. That’s expected. We’re not perfect thinkers and in some ways our brains are even wired to make these errors every now and then.
Understanding these logical fallacies won’t make you right about everything, but they will better prepare you to identify your own faulty thinking when it happens.
Try your best to identify these logical fallacies in your daily life, both in yourself and in others. Don’t be afraid to call out people on their own faulty thinking, and encourage others to be more rational in their beliefs and ideas.
A big part of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is the ability to identify our faulty thinking and how it can lead to problems in our lives. I believe these are important skills that everyone should work to improve.
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