Cognitive Fallacies

by Craig Shrives

What Are Cognitive Fallacies?

Cognitive fallacies (or logical fallacies) are errors in reasoning that weaken or invalidate an argument. Cognitive fallacies should not be confused with cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is an error that causes an element of an argument to be under- or over-weighted. A cognitive fallacy is an error in how the elements of an argument relate to one another.
list of cognitive fallacies

List of Common Cognitive Fallacies

Here are 6 common cognitive fallacies.
  • Ad Hominem Argument
  • An ad hominem argument (ad hominem is Latin for "to the man") occurs when someone tries to contest a claim by highlighting the negative characteristics or beliefs of the person making the claim rather than contesting the claim itself.
  • Appeal to Authority Fallacy
  • The appeal-to-authority fallacy is an error in reasoning that occurs when someone adopts a position because that position is affirmed by a person they believe to be an authority.
  • Appeal to Flattery Fallacy
  • The appeal-to-flattery fallacy is an error in reasoning that occurs when someone adopts a position due to flattery or a compliment presented within the argument.
  • Base Rate Fallacy
  • The base-rate fallacy is an error in reasoning that occurs when someone reaches a conclusion that fails to account for an earlier premise usually a base rate, a probability or some other statistic.
  • Gamblers' Fallacy
  • The gamblers' fallacy occurs when someone predicts the outcome of a pending random event based on previous random events.
  • Obfuscation Fallacy
  • The obfuscation fallacy occurs when someone adopts a position after hearing, or presenting, an argument containing unnecessarily complex language that either impresses (when it shouldn't), confuses or deceives. "To obfuscate: to make obscure, unclear or unintelligible"

Critical Thinking Test

Are you good at spotting the biases, fallacies, and other cognitive effects? Can you spot when statistics have been manipulated? Can you read body language? Well, let's see!
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  • This test has questions.
  • A correct answer is worth 5 points.
  • You can get up to 5 bonus points for a speedy answer.
  • Some questions demand more than one answer. You must get every part right.
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