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Eliminate Faulty Reasoning in Your Class

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/20/2012

Just because your friend Bob likes green doesn't mean every person on the planet named Bob likes green. Just because everybody's doing it doesn't mean you should. Examine these and other ridiculous statements and how to recognize them for what they are; faulty reasoning.

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    Faulty Reasoning Example #1

    "Why are you wearing a pink Boa?" I asked Dexter one morning.

    "My favorite player, Kobe," he explained, "says that pink boas are the next big fashion statement."

    "Is this Kobe guy a fashion expert?"

    "No."

    "Then why are you taking fashion advice from him?"

    "Because he's my favorite player. That's why I drink Sprite and hate Colorado too. If Kobe says it, it must be true!"

    I explained to Dexter that he had fallen victim to faulty reasoning. Advertisers use testimonials of famous people who are an expert in one area to endorse a product in an area in which they are not an expert. He ripped off the pink boa, threw away his Sprite, booked a ski vacation in Colorado, and asked me to explain more types of reasoning to him. I shared with him the following examples of faulty reasoning:

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    Logical Fallacies

    Mistakes in reasoning are called logical fallacies. Avoid the following types of reasoning:

    Overgeneralizations - conclusions based on too little evidence.

    • Example: Cleveland won their first three games. They win all their games. The results of three games is not sufficient to make a definitive statement on how they have done historically.

    Circular Reasoning - supporting your opinion by restating it in other words.

    • Example: Of Mice and Men is really popular because a lot of people like it. Popular and a lot of people like it mean the same thing.

    Either-Or Fallacy - assuming that a complex question has only two possible answers.

    • Example: In The Odyssey, Eurlychus proposed either leave the sun cattle alone and starve to death or eat the cattle and drowned at sea. He eliminated other possibilities, such as wait a few more days, go fishing, or eat leaves.

    Cause and Effect Fallacy - saying one event caused another just because it came before.

    • Example: Cleveland led the game until I called my brother to celebrate. I obviously jinxed them. Calling my brother had no effect on Anderson Varejao's stupid shot (or did it?).

    Loaded Language - words or language meant to appeal to emotions rather than logic.

    Bandwagon - you should do it because everybody's doing it and you want to belong, don't you?

    • I've sold widgets to fourteen people on this street already.
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    Lesson Ideas

    Try one of the following options for teaching students how to recognize bad reasoning and logic.

    1. Read a previous essay or an essay rough draft and find examples of logical fallacies.
    2. Find 5 examples of logical fallacies in advertising, a political speech, sign, or TV show. Identify the type of fallacy.
    3. Write an essay with at least five different examples of faulty reasoning.
    4. Make a poster with examples of the above types of reasoning.
    5. Stage a debate using faulty logic.
    6. Introduce the lesson by using examples of faulty logic to punish students.
    7. Bring in copies of The National Enquirer, The Globe, The New York Post, or other tabloid type news and find examples of faulty logic.

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