Everyone aspires to be in possession of reason. When we have an idea in our internal jurisdiction, it is because we consider it to be the best of all possible in a given subject, and we rarely give in to abandon it without a fight first.
And this is why, by engaging in the fire of the dialectical battle, we often use persuasion strategies that break with formal logic; or we are victims of the ploys of others to bring our opinion in their place (and sometimes without realizing it).
This type of juggling of logic, which very often ignores it precisely and relegates it to a second order of importance, which we call errors. Sometimes, as errors, it’s cognitive biases that hurt those who use them more than others.
In this article, we will discuss, in particular, informal errors. Knowing them is essential to develop sufficient competence with our words to emerge victorious from debates, as well as to protect ourselves from the traps that our minds (or other people) can sometimes set.
What are informal errors?
Informal errors are reasoning in which premises are used which seem logical, but which in fact hide an error in their own structure (The arguments have an approach bias or allude to irrationality). Sometimes they have a formally flawless streak, so they are not easy to recognize. The aim of this text is to shed light on this question and to provide the bases necessary to identify them in ourselves or in others.
Types of informal errors
Below, we’ll take a look at the 20 most important informal errors, along with their composition. In order to facilitate their full understanding, we will also go through specific examples.
1. To a person
The lie and the gooseberry refers directly to the person making an argument, but at no time notices the veracity or logic of what he is saying. The aim, in this case, is to discredit the interlocutor or to denigrate his opinion on the basis of undesirable “supposed” qualities, which attack the forces of his persuasive effort. For example: “If you are not a university student, you are a total ignorant and you have no right to give your opinion on this matter.”
The structure of an argument is based on an illogical way, using imposition, threat or violence to persuade others on them leading an action or assuming an attitude of their own. The content of these messages has no basis whatsoever and usually occurs in the context of a vertical or asymmetric relationship (one relationship that holds authority to one that does not). For example, “this is done because I say it”.
3. Out of shame
We pretend that something is true for the sole reason that whoever says it has a position of authority or is an expert on the matter at hand.
The prestige of the source is the only reason used to validate an argument, regardless of the fact that people can make mistakes (or other biases) despite extensive knowledge. Sometimes it is also claimed that something is true because it was published in the media. For example, “it should be true because they said it on TV.”
4. To people
It uses the general belief on the subject under discussion to deduce that the position held there is correct or true. From this error it follows that the popular consensus is undoubtedly pointing to the right, So that the direction in which others think must rise as a standard from which to orient one’s own view of things. For example: “If this song is number one on the charts, it’s because it has to be good and worth hearing.”
Although the possibility of falsifying an hypothesis is a necessary characteristic for it to be considered in the realm of science, this error emphasizes that the inability to prove that something is wrong implies that it must be true. Who uses it he does not consider it important to prove the certainty of what he says, but that the interlocutor proves his falsity. For example: “I have a lion in the garage, and if not prove that I am making it up.”
6. At the start
Traditions are the basic guide for many people in their conduct of life and in their decisions about how to proceed in the face of day-to-day uncertainty. In this way, what is transmitted intergenerationally is erected as the most fundamental rule, and the reason why it must be good or bad. People who use this error say that if a way of “doing things” was useful for a long time, it will remain so in the present and in the future. For example: “it is so because all life has been so”.
This error can be seen as a mirror of the above. In this way, the veracity of any argument referring to its novelty will be substantiated or the fact that he opposes what was once considered different. Those who use it believe that the passage of time always leads to improvement, so anything that has emerged recently will replace what has been done by tradition. For example: “Today’s technology is so advanced that movies today are much better than they were twenty years ago.”
8. After that, therefore, for that
This error is based on a misinterpretation of adjacency, in that everything that happens before an event must be the reason. If it is true that the laws of cause and effect would require the temporal (and physical) proximity of the 1 and the other, everything that happens near a fact will not be directly linked to it. For example: “Everyone shouted the moment the teacher entered the classroom, that’s why they did it.” It was also given the corresponding correlation name.
9.error, ambiguity or antanaclasia
Polysemous words are used, or they have several meaningsIn order to offer reasoning, the treatment transfers to the subject who could receive it to very ambiguous interpretations. On some occasions, it is even possible that the very connotations that emerge from it are so divergent that the intention to manipulate the listener from the “twist” of the rich semantics of a language is estimated. For example: “the end of life is only death itself” (understand “end” as “goal” or as “end”).
10. Straw Man
This mistake is to carry the argument of the person with whom he is interacting to the final consequences, forcing him to take the most extreme position possible and distance himself from moderation. In this way, it is possible that careful reasoning is blurred and distorted, providing much simpler counter-arguments.
This error too it supposes the distortion of the initial objective, Until he eventually becomes different and difficult to defend. For example: “If you say that all people are equal and that murderers are people after all, then you are like all murderers.”
11. Affirmation of the consequence
Each event can be divided into causes and consequences, or what is the same, antecedents and consequences. Sometimes a fact can have more than one consequence and, moreover, when it occurs, it does not need to have been preceded by a single cause. this process leads to conclusions that may be true, but does not explore all of the options that might come into play. For example: “When it rains, the ground is wet. Since this ground is wet, it can be said that it rained for sure.”
12. Background disclaimer
This case is the opposite of the previous one. As in this one, a fact in its causes and consequences must be crumbled. After that, a cause would be treated as the “absolute value” of the implied consequence, omitting in this act any additional explanatory factors for the therefore.
For example: “The person who works gets what he can wish for. If he does not work, then he will never get it” (although he can do it by other means, like chance, or changing his goals for others where the work is not so relevant).
13. Hasty generalization
This error implies that, starting from a series of isolated personal experiences (which are not representative of reality), the generalization of a much more complex phenomenon takes place. It is a mechanism by which a fact too complicated to be fully and absolutely learned is cognitively simplified, and by which stereotypes are often born unfair to those who convey them. For example: “I went to the doctor once and he made a mistake with my diagnosis, and they are all incompetent.”
14. Request in principle
This error involves the articulation of premises which, by their very formulation, approve a series of hypotheses which have not been validated in reality. And this is so because by accepting the content of the same, other different aspects are accepted in a secondary way which could not be corroborated.
This way, if we agree with the original reasoning, others will be approved without our realizing it. For example: “I always tell the truth” (from which one must deduce, without solid proof, that he never lies).
15. Player error
this mistake distorts the true laws of probability by witnessing past events that are really irrelevant. It is mainly used in subjects linked to chance and has been able to be systematically controlled in those who suffer from pathological gambling. This can be problematic when it encourages them to persist in the behavior that leads them to economic ruin. For example: “When you toss the coin in the air, the face and cross have up to a 50% chance to appear. I have done this nine times and they have all become expensive, so it is more likely that in the following one leaves in cross “.
16. Ad nauseam
The ad nauseam error it consists of repeating the same idea enough times to make it real to the interlocutor. It assumes that “when a lie is repeated over and over, it ends up being the truth.” This is a strategy widely used in the advertising industry, which aims to build consumer confidence by reiterating the claimed benefits of a product or service in different media. For example: “our toothpaste is the most effective in preventing cavities” (repeated in different channels and in several time slots).
This informal error he resorts to pity or piety to reinforce the adequacy of what he is intended to accomplish. It is a search for reason, or interpersonal persuasion, appealing to the emotions of the interlocutor and his empathy for our situation. Emotions play an important role here, as they are manipulated by ignoring the most basic logic. For example: “pass the exam, please, you don’t know the days I spent without sleep …”.
This error suggests that if the consequences of a premise are negative, it cannot be true. like that, the arguments are stripped of their veracity because, if they are accepted, one would assume something which is not pleasant. or that it can even become catastrophic. As you can see, he is very close to denial and has a very strong emotional substratum. For example: “This thing about climate change is a lie, because if it were true in just a few centuries, the planet would collapse.”
19. False dilemma
This error aims to reduce a multiplicity of possible options to choose from into just two alternatives, and often to exclude them. This creates an artificial dilemma in which the person is forced not only to choose any option among the few offered, but also to accept without further reflection the path that others have blazed for him. For example, “either you are with me or you are against me”.
20. fallacy and Lazarus purse
these errors they assume the attribution of truth to the argument by the fact that whoever uses it is rich (Ad crumenam) or poor (ad lazarum). It is similar to cognitive winner-loser biases, a well-known phenomenon in social psychology that explains how people position themselves in favor of an individual to find themselves in a position of privilege or disadvantage in a particular competitive context. (Especially in politics). Thus, it focuses on resources, or their absence, as a criterion from which to recognize the goodness of speech. For example, “if Bill Gates says it must be true”.
- Cummings, L. (2014). Informal errors as cognitive heuristics in public health reasoning. Informal logic, 34, 1 – 37.
- Hitchcock, D. (1989). Informal errors. Educational philosophy, 12, 49 – 51.