Rubbish Reasoning: Appeals to Popularity

This is part of a series on Logical Fallacies.

It’s clearly wrong to accept the majority’s approval as evidence for the truth of a claim, but advertising is often successful in persuading us to do just that. You may know it as the Bandwagon Effect.

Thankfully, the erroneous nature of the Appeal to Popularity is one of the easiest to explain and demonstrate.

Pro Tip:

An Appeal to Popularity argues the existence of a MAJORITY as evidence for a claim.

Appeals to popularity have the following form:

  1. Most people love X.
  2. Therefore X is true.
Example:

  1. There is a consensus about X
  2. Therefore X is true
Example:

  1. 90% of those surveyed recommend X
  2. Therefore X is true

We tend to seek assurances that our acceptance of a new belief or even of the ones we currently hold conforms with the views held by the majority. This is known as communal reinforcement.

Appeals to Popularity are similar to three other logical fallacies, but should not be confused:

  • Appeal to Belief – Argues because most people believe a claim, it is true.
  • Appeal to Common Practice – Argues because most people do a claimed action, it is valid.
  • Appeal to Emotion – Argues because a claim has favourable emotions associated with it, it is true.

References:

  1. Nikzor Project – Fallacy: Appeal to Popularity
  2. Wikipedia – Argumentum ad Populum

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