All Sections & Techniques:
|Appeal to Pity
|Metaphor and Simile
|Appeal to Flattery
|Disproving a Minor Point
|Drawing the Line
|Degrees and Titles
|Appeal to Ridicule
|Not Drawing the Line
|Quotations Out of Context
|Appeal to Prestige
|Appeal to Ignorance
|Appeal to Prejudice
|Shift of Meaning
|Join the Bandwagon Appeal
|Attacking a Strawman
|Victory by Definition
|From the Acceptable to the Dubious
|Begging the Question
Prejudice: A long-standing, deep-seated, emotional bias that makes us unwilling to fairly examine the evidence and reasoning in behalf of a person or thing. We are not born with prejudices, they are acquired by indoctrination, conditioning or prior experiences of a singularly pleasant or unpleasant character. Thus, prejudices have a history – they have a beginning. This technique is not about appeals to prejudice which come from outside you, rather, this technique refers to how your own prejudice victimizes you, unaided by outside support. Prejudice differs from Hasty Generalization in that although Hasty Generalization often represents a spontaneous emotional reaction, Prejudice is always a matter of much longer standing. The feeling that operates is deep, not superficial, and is often completely hidden from the person in its grip.
Emotional Terms: An emotional term is a word or phrase which, however much factual information it conveys about an object, also expresses and/or arouses a feelings for or against that object. Translated into neutral language the emotionally charged example given above would read: I don't agree and if you'll just give me a chance to talk, I'll show you why. The authors believe that emotional language is appropriate in non- controversial situations. For purposes of the Propaganda Game, patriotic celebrations, church services, poetry and other literary forms, and whenever a person is expressing personal feeling without attempting to persuade or convince others are considered to be non-controversial situations. In playing the game then, emotional terms apply to controversial situations only, although we are, aware that many will disagree with this characterization.
Appearance: The appearance of a thing (or person) is made the basis of our acceptance or rejection without any thought that this appearance may be a deceptive indicator of value.
Appeal to Pity: An attempt is made to secure our commitment by presenting the object of commitment as an object of sympathy, thereby arousing our sympathetic feelings to the point where these feelings determine favorable action.
Concurrency: Because things exist or appear simultaneously, it is claimed that one is the cause of the other. The form of the argument is: A is present along with B; therefore A is the cause of B. But two concurrents could never be the cause of one another, for a cause is something antecedent in time.
Diversion: To divert is to get off the subject. With the original issue left unresolved, one of the disputants begins to talk of something which has no apparent evidential value for his thesis. The diversion is full (instead of merely partial) when the second party to the argument accepts the diversion and joins in discussion or argument over the new issue.
Academic Detachment: We refuse to commit ourselves when decision or action is demanded. In a situation requiring a stand to be taken, we see (or think we see) persuasive arguments on both sides. But certain situations, e.g., voting, require decision and action of one kind or another. Here, instead of trying to remain neutral, we must make a decision on the basis of which side seems to have the greater weight of evidence.
Metaphor and Simile: A metaphor is a comparison implied but not definitely stated. In the case of simile the comparison is explicitly stated by means of such words as like or as. In controversial situations the employment of metaphor or simile is to be avoided because such figures of speech are apt to suggest likenesses not really intended or not actually present.
Manner: A person's manner of behaving is made the basis of our acceptance or rejection of him without any thought that this manner may be a deceptive indicator of value.
Appeal to Flattery: An attempt is made to persuade us to buy or believe by flattering us on our personal appearance or in some other category where we excel or desire to excel.
Post Hoc: Because two events (or things) follow one another in close temporal succession the first event is claimed to be the cause of the second. The form of the argument is: A precedes B; therefore A is the cause of B. We may take as a hypothesis for testing, that A is a (or the) cause of B, but we should not forget that anyone of a score of other preceding events is equally worthy of investigation.
Disproving a Minor Point: When you have, say, two or more pieces of evidence of varying degree of importance, your opponent takes one of the less weighty of your arguments (perhaps a rather trivial point) and discredits that. He then acts as if (or attempts to create the impression that) he has disproved your whole case.
Drawing the Line: Sharp distinctions are drawn where it is inappropriate to draw sharp distinctions. It is permissible to draw the line between those who are for you and those who are not for you, those who tell the truth and those who do not tell the truth, and so on. But the error and inclination exhibited by common speech is to fail to realize that the logical class of those who do not tell the truth includes two subclasses that are quite different: 1) those who lie and 2) those who say nothing at all.
Emphasis: The technique of emphasis occurs only when another speaker or writer is quoted and one or more words emphasized so as to imply what would not otherwise be implied and thus put into the mouth of the source, meaning(s) he may not have wished to convey. Oral emphasis is usually secured by means of pitch, tone, or volume of voice. Written emphasis is secured by a variety of devices, such as italicizing and underlining. Italics mine (or its equivalent) is the accepted way for a writer to indicate that he is giving a stress to certain words that the original author had perhaps no thought of stressing.
Degrees and Titles: We buy or we believe out of respect for degrees or titles attached to the names of those who persuade us.
Appeal to Ridicule: An attempt is made to influence us to accept a certain proposition by poking fun at those who oppose the proposition.
Selected Instances: Support is drawn for a position by choosing only those cases or instances which back it up and disregarding those cases or instances which either contradict or do not support the position. The form of the argument is: All A is B; because A1, A2, A3, and A4 are B. The form is invalid; the arguer knows that at least A5 is not B.
Ad Hominem: Instead of attacking your proposition, your opponent directs his argument against you as a person. Although a person's past record is something one should take into consideration, it should not be one's sole basis for judging an argument. The Ad Hominem attack often takes the form of discounting a proposition by attributing prejudice or bias to its supporters. But what motivates us to believe as we do, say what we say, is one thing. The truth or falsity, validity or invalidity, of what we say is another. It is possible to be prejudiced but right. Another form of Ad Hominem is charging your opponent with the inconsistency of not living up to what he advocates.
Not Drawing the Line: The existence of differences is denied just because the differences are small and therefore apparently unimportant.
Quotations out of Context: Quotation out of context is a propaganda technique when the effect of quoting a given statement without its context is to distort the original meaning in context. The context of a given statement is not merely the words that precede and that follow but every accompanying circumstance, whether it be time and place or gesture and facial expression.
Numbers: We buy or believe because of the large numbers associated with the product or proposition.
Appeal to Prestige: An attempt is made to induce you to buy or believe by stating or suggesting that such action will secure or maintain prestige for you. Status and Appeal to Prestige, though related techniques, nevertheless represent quite different errors. In the former case it is suggested that if Jones, a person possessing or allegedly possessing status, buys or believes, so should you. There is no implication that your buying or believing will confer on you equivalent status. The Appeal to Prestige suggests that you should buy or believe because by so doing you will acquire or improve status.
Hasty Generalization: The arguer jumps to a general or blanket conclusion about members of a given group on the basis of an unrepresentative or insufficient number of cases. The form of the argument is: A1, A2, A3 are B; therefore all A is B. Selected instances and Hasty Generalization have much the same effect. There are important differences, however. Hasty Generalization typically occurs on an emotional basis, while Selected Instances is typically coldly calculating. In the former case there is, at the time at least, no awareness of opposed instances; in the latter case, there is. Selected Instances is not merely crooked thinking but dishonesty. On the surface the two are apt to look alike, and until we have evidence that the arguer is really deliberately closing his eyes to contradictory cases, we cannot label the technique as Selected Instances.
Appeal to Ignorance: A proposition (1) is said to be true because it has not been disproved or (2) is said to be untrue because it has not been proved. What is not disproved on a given occasion is not necessarily true. Is a scientific theory accepted as true because you cannot disprove it? Rather, the theory must be verified positively. Every person who presents a proposition in argument has the obligation to offer at least one reason in defence of it. Likewise, your opponent's successful attack on all premises or reasons you advance does not in all strictness make his position right and yours wrong. All he has shown is that your position is not true for your reasons. Other people, now or later, may be able to produce better reasons. Similarly, your being able to show that your adversary in his defence has involved himself in contradiction is not sufficient to prove him wrong. Smith may be arguing that the taking of life is evil, but admits that he doesn't object to killing animals for food. There is contradiction and confusion, but Smith may still be right that the taking of life is evil.
Conservatism, Radicalism, Moderatism: These three habits of mind often are forms of prejudice. But they are not necessarily such. Prejudices have histories with a beginning. But the conservative, the one who prefers what is old or familiar simply because it is old or familiar, may be born such; it is a part of the temperament he brings into the world. Radicalism is the habit of preferring the new or the revolutionary just because of its newness. The moderate habitually chooses middle-of-the-road or compromise ground; he avoids the two extremes. But there is no inherent virtue in moderatism or compromise as such. Actually, there are times when our position should be conservative, times when we should take a radical stand, and still other times when we should be moderate.
Abstract Terms: An abstract term is a word or symbol which stands for the qualities (one or more) possessed in common by a number of particular things, facts, or events. The technique of abstract terms occurs when an arguer employs a word for which he may have meaning in the form of other words, but the arguer is unable to identify the concrete facts to which the word supposedly refers.
Status: Persons or objects for which we have a strong sentiment of respect and esteem - or which at least possess some degree of fame or prestige - are introduced into the argument as endorsing that which we are asked to buy or believe.
Appeal to Prejudice: The one who makes the appeal to prejudice attempts to persuade you to act or feel in a certain way by associating his person, product or proposal with a certain one or more of your prejudices, positive or negative - a prejudice being a prejudgement wrapped in emotion and having a history. Not only does he rekindle your prejudice, he also arouses in you warm feelings toward the one (himself) who apparently shares your prejudice. And so it becomes much easier to make you believe or buy whatever he has to offer.
Faulty Analogy: To reason analogically is to reason that because two or more things or types of things are alike in some one or more respects (we may call this the antecedent resemblance), they will therefore be found alike in some other respect(s)- the consequent resemblance. In cases of reliable analogies the antecedent factor is already known to have some bearing on the consequent factor. In faulty analogies such knowledge is lacking. The form of the argument is: A is like B in respect C; therefore A is like B in respect D.
Leading Question: A leading question is one which (1) dictates or suggests an answer or (2) one which incriminates the answerer (or places him in an undesirable position) no matter how he answers. Under the second form of Leading Question may be included any question which assumes as true that which is yet controversial and undecided. Why is it that labor leaders are so much less concerned about the general welfare than are the leaders of business? The one to whom the question is addressed tends to ask himself, 'Now why is that?' or 'What reason could I give for that?' when he ought to immediately respond, 'Wait a minute! Let's settle first whether it is true that they are less concerned.'
Rationalization: You cite reasons or causes that will justify action that really has less creditable grounds.
Vagueness: To call a word vague is to say that marginal situations can and do arise where there is doubt as to whether the word should or should not be used in describing those particular situations. The technique of vagueness exists where there is uncertainty as to the scope of a word.
Repetition: We buy or believe because we have heard or seen the idea or product name so often.
Bargain Appeal: An attempt is made to get you to buy by appealing to your desire to save money. If you buy without making your own comparison as to price, quality, and service, the technique is successful.
Composition: We reason as if the properties of elements or individuals were always (i.e., necessarily) the properties of the wholes which they constitute. But the assumption that what holds true of a part is automatically true of the whole cannot be justified. The form of the argument is: A is part of B and A is C; therefore B is C.
Complex Question: A series of questions are put and then the questioner demands that they be answered as a whole by either yes or no. Since there is always the possibility that the answerer needs to answer each of the questions separately and differently, the complex question puts the answerer in an unfair position. Although the questions contained in the series may each be a leading question, the complex question differs in that separate answers are not desired.
Wishful Thinking: You believe a proposition to be true because you want it to be true. When we are forced to admit that our wishes have not become reality, we may then seek comfort in rationalizing.
Ambiguity: A word or phrase is ambiguous if in the mind of a hearer or reader it has two or more quite different meanings and the interpreter is uncertain as to which was really meant. In argument such a situation would at all times be undesirable.
Slogans: A slogan is a short, meaningful, catchy phrase or sentence intended for general consumption and designed to terminate thought and promote action in favor of the slogan maker. However true the slogan may be, if your action is merely a favorable response to the slogan, the technique is successful.
Folksy Appeal: The user of this device places himself or his product on a level of neighbourly intimacy with the reader or listener. The Folksy Appeal combines elements of Appearance and Manner.
Division: We reason as if the properties of any whole are always (i.e., necessarily) properties of each part. But the assumption that what holds true of a whole is automatically true of its parts cannot be justified. The form of the argument is: A is part of B and B is C; therefore A is C.
Inconsequent Argument: The arguer proves or establishes something, but not what he said he would prove. In the example given above, surely proof of a previous bad record is a far cry from proof of guilt in the offences charged. Proof of a bad record is 'inconsequential' - of no consequence. If bad record proves guilt, then for every crime there are millions of guilty people. Inconsequent Argument differs from Diversion in that in the latter nothing is proved, whereas in the former something has been proven, though not what the arguer was expected to prove.
Tabloid Thinking: To think in tabloids is to oversimplify a complex theory or set of circumstances. The tabloid thinker prefers quick summaries and has the habit of putting things in a nutshell. Tabloids concerning people are popular because they offer a neat summary of the character of a prominent person. 'Marx? You don't know who Marx was? Why, he was that philosopher who became impatient and irritable in his old age.' It is much easier to remember Marx in this simple fashion than to remember him as a man of many interesting and controversial facets of character and conviction. These human tabloids are frequently emotional, but they are not mere Emotional Terms. To be Tabloid Thinking there must be some indication that someone is trying to sum up another's character: All stereotypes (barbers are talkative) are tabloids because they represent a certain trait or characteristic, which is really superficial or trivial, as being the essential nature of a given class.
Shift of Meaning: In shift of meaning a word appears explicitly or implicitly two or more times in an argument but with different meanings. Conclusions based on a meaning different than the one initially intended are not necessarily valid. In an argument between two people, a given word may shift in the meaning given it by the two parties. This leads to what are called 'merely verbal disagreements' or 'merely verbal agreements.' If the reasoning depends on the word's being used in the same sense by the two parties, a technique has been used if the meanings ascribed differ.
Technical Jargons: The technique of technical jargon is the use of technical language or unfamiliar words, whether contained in the dictionary or freshly coined, for the purpose of impressing people.
Join the Bandwagon Appeal: An effort is made to influence you to act in a certain way by asserting or implying that that is what is popular or what the majority is doing.
Non Sequitur: The conclusion is not necessitated by the premise(s). Strictly speaking, all techniques so far covered where the conclusion is invalid are Non Sequiturs. There is, therefore, no one form for a Non Sequitur. Since the Non Sequitur label can be applied to so many other techniques, the label will be reserved here for only those invalidities that cannot be classified under some other heading. They are, at least, Non Sequiturs.
Attacking a Strawman: Your opponent either (1) restates your position falsely or (2) exaggerates the consequences that may follow from your position.
Casual Oversimplification: A complex event is explained by references to only one or two probable causes whereas many are responsible.
Sophistical Formula: To shut off or close the argument a popular maxim or old saying is quoted. But every controversial situation must be settled in its own terms, and not on the merits (if any) of some proverb.
Appeal to Practical Consequences: An effort is made to persuade us to buy or believe by appealing to our concern for our own individual welfare, i.e., if we do as we are asked, we will secure certain beneficial consequences, while if we refuse to do as asked, the consequences will be harmful.
Victory by Definition: A position is defined in such a way as to exclude all negative cases or adverse evidence.
Inconceivability: You declare a proposition to be false simply because you cannot conceive it actualized or possible of realization.
Passing from the Acceptable to the Dubious: The arguer states a series of propositions. The early ones are readily acceptable to the audience or reader, but the concluding statement may be dubious. The listener or reader is expected to accept blindly the, later ones because he has accepted those which came before.
Begging the Question: This technique involves assuming as true what has yet to be proved. Frequently the same proposition is used both as premise and as conclusion in a single argument. This may be done either (1) by the use of synonymous terms or (2) by circular argument, which involves the use of A to prove B and B to prove A.