Who’s allowed to make General Statements? It’s Fallacy Friday!

26 Jul


Mary Kaye women always wear pink!

Women from Dallas have big hair!

When I was growing up, my dad forbade me to make ‘general statements’ by disclaiming, “Maria – you are not a general, yet!”

It wasn’t until I was teaching logic that I realized other reasons for avoiding big broad, unsubstantiated pronouncements that were not backed up by enough data!

Welcome, again, to Fallacy Friday!  This is the day when we examine more examples of faulty reasoning.  Fallacies are shortcuts undertaken by either ignorant, lazy or devious people to convince you of the truth of their assertion!  But beware.

I just spent a week in Dallas, practicing new techniques in teaching second language acquisition.  Our group shared the hotel with 3 batches of Mary Kaye sales consultants, one after another.  In the elevators, in the restrooms, in the hallways bounced, minced & chattered well-coiffed, flawlessly made- up women, bedecked with sales awards.  

And no, contrary to my pre-conceived idea, Mary Kaye women DO NOT all wear pink.   That is a Sweeping Generalization.

All Mary Kaye women I have seen wear pink

Here are some Mary Kaye women

Therefore, they will be wearing pink

The problem is that the MK women I have experienced are too small a population size for me to come to my conclusion.  Hence I have just made a Sweeping Generalization.


Now about my second pronouncement about hair – a true Hasty Generalization:  I’ve actually only met ONE woman from Texas who had big hair, Beth Moore.  I think what compounded my idea was that some people make fun of Texan women by talking about their hair.  For me to conclude, from ONE data point + hearsay, that all women from Texas have big hair is even worse than my Mary Kaye pre-conceived idea!  

So what do we do with those traditional sayings that get passed along?  Is there NO truth in them?

Just be more specific.  Instead of claiming “ALL this or that”….or even worse…. leaving off a quantifier altogether – (i.e. claiming “Mary Kaye women….Texan women….without the words – all/some/no/some…not), BE SPECIFIC and use that honest 4-letter word “SOME”.

Consider these assertions that are MORE honest if they can be backed up by at least one example:

  • ·         Some capitalists are dishonest.
  • ·         Some conservatives are not compassionate.
  • ·         Some liberals resort to name-calling.
  • ·         Some teens talk back to their parents.
  • ·         Some mothers-in-laws criticize constantly.
  • ·         Some Americans are not fat.

Your HW for the coming week is this – try practicing awareness of your own thoughts or speech:

          What Sweeping or Hasty Generalizations do you tend to make routinely?

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