Do you believe everything…? you read in the newspaper? you view on TV? you read about on the Web? your friends tell you? your teacher tells you?
How do you know…? which candidate to believe in a political campaign? whether a product being advertised really works?
Recognize False Logic and Bias Learn to recognize faulty arguments and deceptive logic to improve your ability to think critically about issues. Following are some of the more common faulty persuasion techniques used in a variety of situations, including political ads, commercials, business situations, and more.
Glittering Generalities These arguments say little but convey emotion. Advertisers often use words that stir up certain emotions in us. Sometimes these words glitter and sparkle to attract our eye, such as fresh, sparkling, etc. Example: Pure, fresh, mountain spring water. Bottled especially for you in Colorado from our purest mountain springs.
Hasty Generalizations These are conclusions based on insufficient evidence or samples too small to support the conclusion. Examples: You can’t speak Italian. I can’t speak Italian. Petey can’t speak Italian. I must therefore conclude that nobody working at our store can speak French. I asked three of my friends what they thought of the new tax law and they agreed it is a good idea. The new tax law is therefore popular.
False Dilemma This argument poses only two choices when there are a variety of possibilities and perspectives to consider. Examples: Either miss class to hang out with a friend who’s back in town or make your friend feel bad. You don’t want to make your friend feel bad, so you’ll have to miss class today. Senator Joe: “We’ll have to cut education funding this year.” Senator Will: “Why?” Senator Joe: “Well, either we cut education or we live with a huge deficit, and we can’t live with the deficit.”
Bandwagon An approach that encourages people to do something because it is the popular thing to do. Everybody is doing it! Although the majority opinion is often valid, that’s not always the case. Examples: Don’t miss the biggest event of the year! Everyone who’s anyone will be there. Order your tickets today. Claire and Kaitlin get to stay out late. All my friends get to stay out until midnight, so I should be able to too!
Slippery Slope This argument claims that a chain reaction, usually ending in an extreme consequence, will take place. If we take even one step on the “slippery slope,” we won’t be able to stop and will slide all the way to the bottom. Examples: No, you can’t get your ears pierced! Next thing you know, you’ll have a pierced nose, tongue, and belly button too. The answer is no, you can’t learn to play the guitar. Before you know it, you’ll drop out of school and join a band.