Be Cautious of the Fallacy Fallacy

There’s a danger to learning about cognitive biases and logical fallacies and so on which is that you end up with this tool kit of ways to reject other people’s arguments.

While it’s really valuable to be able to notice rhetorical fallacies in other people’s arguments, it’s possibly even more valuable to be able to notice them in your own arguments. 


And the reason is that there’s a danger to learning about cognitive biases and logical fallacies and so on which is that you end up with this tool kit of ways to reject other people’s arguments.  And if you don’t turn that tool kit on yourself then you just end up more and more entrenched in the beliefs that you already had. 

There’s this term that I like called the fallacy fallacy which refers to when you notice some fallacy in something someone’s saying and you use that as an excuse to ignore their point altogether even though, in fact, they might have many good points despite the one fallacy in their argument. 

And if you’re smart you should be especially cautious of the fallacy fallacy because research shows that smart people have greater ability to notice flaws in other people’s arguments and don't look for flaws in their own arguments.  So, you really have to want to figure out the right answer, to figure out the truth more than you want to prove yourself right or to win a particular argument.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

The Universe Shouldn’t Exist, CERN Scientists Announce

BASE particle physicists have discovered a very precise way to examine antimatter.

The Veil Nebula. Credit: By Jschulman555 - Own work, Wikipedia Commons.
Surprising Science

Thank your lucky stars you’re alive. It’s truly a miracle of nature. This has nothing to do with spirituality or religion and everything to do with science. Life itself may not be the miracle. Although we haven’t found it elsewhere yet, our galaxy alone is so replete with Earth-like planets that, mathematically speaking, one of them must hold life, even if it’s just the microbial variety. Intelligent life may be another matter.

Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less

Sexual activity linked to higher cognitive function in older age

A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.

The results of this one-of-a-kind study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men.
Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
  • The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
  • The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…