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Facts or False? - Logical Fallacies and Why we fall for them!

While having a conversation with a friend, Ashish mentioned that he wasn’t able to study well for his upcoming exams to which Anvi responded by saying, at least he is getting a night of good sleep. She hasn’t been able to sleep well because of the anxiety that has crept in due to the forthcoming exams. “Stop ranting about it, people have it worse than you.” Doesn’t this ring a bell?

Often we hear statements as a ‘matter of fact’ which are nothing but wild conclusions with no rationale to them. It is saying that India lost the cricket match because you moved from that chair (we’ve all done this one). Such statements are referred to as Logical Fallacies as they are devoid of logic. We know that’s not the reason behind the loss and that these aren’t logical statements but these seem true until we put some logic to them. There are various fallacies that we experience every other day but we don’t recognise these. Let us move further and understand some different fallacies with some relevant examples.

  • Relative Privation:

When such statements are brought up in the context of rejecting one problem because it is ‘Not as bad as’ another problem at hand, it is called the Fallacy of Relative Privation. Basically, the concept of relative privation suggests the intensity of a problem at hand is not that high because some other issue is worse.

One of the most prominent examples of Relative Privation would be the usage of the phrase ‘First World Problems’, isn’t it? Or let us consider an even more relevant example here. How often, as children, were we told to eat and drink whatever we get because there are children out there who wouldn’t even get these? To ease out the understanding, it means evaluating the intensity of a problem in ‘relation’ to some other problem.

  • False Inductions:

False Induction brings us to an understanding that one event caused another while it may not be true. So when we say the Indian cricket team lost the match because I moved from this chair, it is an example of a False Induction.

  • The Slippery Slope:

If you do not study today, you are going to fail the test tomorrow. If you allow a certain employee to take a day off, the entire organisation will be asking for it tomorrow. Often we get to hear the worst-case scenario that might happen as a result of your decision, will actually happen after you take that decision. This is the slippery slope.

It is to insinuate that a certain decision is undesirable because it will lead to another undesirable situation which in turn would lead to another undesirable situation, hence the slippery slope. For example, if you do not study today, you will fall behind the syllabus tomorrow, and because you’ll fall behind the syllabus, you’ll not be able to study well for the exams, because you won’t be able to study well, you’ll not score well and fail in the exams.

  • The Bandwagon Fallacy:

Quite a few of us might have heard of the Y2K or the Millennial Bug (Read below) that took the world by storm. A majority population believed in it, some countries spent millions of dollars to prepare for it. Let us consider another example.

The Bandwagon fallacy talks about how an individual is led to believe in something because the majority of people believe in it while the phenomenon may or may not be true.

There is a large section of people who believe that the earth is flat but it is a proven fact, that it isn’t.

  • The False Dichotomy:

A lot of times, an individual is given an either-or kind of a situation to choose from. While there may be many other choices, the given options seem the only feasible ones, even though both are not the best choices and this kind of situation is referred to as the False Dichotomy.

For example, You either sign the deal and give up your stake or let your company face the tunes of the investors soon.

Stewart Stafford says, “Applying logic to potentially illogical behaviour is to construct a house on shifting foundations. The structure will inevitably collapse.”

It is important for us to understand that not everything we hear is to be believed at face value and rather, we need to at times dig deeper to actually understand something. Easier said than done, almost all of us have fallen for such fallacies some or the other time.

Why does this happen though, even when we know it doesn’t make sense? There can be multiple reasons for it.

First, it is usually because the conclusion may seem more believable and subconsciously we agree to such fallacies for which we have been conditioned since childhood - the slippery slope of failing the exam because of not studying one day.

Second, there’s a bias on our part while we are assessing the fallacy and if the conclusion that the fallacy projects is matching to our idea of it, we might not consider it to be a fallacy - the false dichotomy way of thinking there are no other options left for me.

Another reason for us to fall for such fallacies is the emotional aspect of it. We don’t want the Indian team to lose, right? Let’s just stick to one place and not move, what if they lose and I am to blame?

This brings in the fourth reason - fear. Fear aids our belief in a fallacy because we don’t want to end up in a situation where the speaker is making us visualize. Consider you’re working in a ‘toxic work environment’ and are deeply frustrated about your job. But, a friend of yours comes and tells you that their organisation is going through a layoff for cost-cutting. Relatively, you would consider yours to be a better situation and therefore the fear of getting laid off can make you believe that you’re in a better place because at least you have a job.

Our mind plays these games with us sub-consciously, for reasons discussed above. However, when we are more aware about these, it can help us understand our own thought patterns, behaviours, and coping mechanisms even better. How many could you relate to?


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