Detailed Guide about Logical Fallacy in Advertising

Introduce the logical fallacy and explain what it is saying

A fallacy in advertising is when a false claim or an argument uses poor reasoning to convince the audience of something. The advertiser might use half-truths, lies, or other deceptive methods to create an illusion of truth about their product by diverting attention away from relevant facts. For example, if someone says, “Our laundry detergent reuses recycled bottles,” they imply that it is environmentally friendly because not all the plastic would have been reused.

Logical Fallacies Are Used in Advertising Frequently

Logical Fallancies in Advertising can be hard to spot because we often believe what we want to think. Now the most typical logical fallacies in advertising:

1) Bandwagon:  This occurs when advertisers try and convince you to join the crowd, whether because it is fashionable, famous, or cool to use that product. It tries to persuade people on the fence to join the larger group and reduce their risk of being isolated and alone. For instance: “9 out of 10 dentists suggest this toothpaste”

2) Appeal To Authority:  This occurs when advertisers claim that someone is an authority figure to persuade you to accept that they are saying is true. This often happens when celebrities endorse products but also occurs in less obvious ways, such as pictures of doctors or scientists next to a health product in an attempt to make it seem more credible

For example: “Doctor approved!”

3) Appeal To Emotion: This occurs when advertisers try and use emotional triggers to convince you that their product is the best. For example, music makes you want to dance or cute baby animals on a grooming product.

4) Straw Man: This occurs when advertisers create a false claim on purpose to make it easier for them to argue against/disprove. They convince people of this fake claim then argue against it instead of whatever accurate claim they make. For example, “This new soap does not use animal testing!”

5) Red Herring: This occurs when advertisers purposely bring up irrelevant points during an argument to divert attention away from the original issue. For example, if someone said they found lipstick on your shirt instead of arguing with you about why you were late to meet them.

6) False Dichotomy: This occurs when advertisers create a false claim around two choices; i.e., we can either buy this product or something horrible will happen

7) Appeal To Nature: This is one of the most common logical fallacies in advertising, and it tries to convince consumers that products which are not synthetic, laboratory-produced, or technologically advanced are more natural, organic, and healthy. It makes us believe that nature itself is perfect, and therefore anything that comes from it must also be excellent. For example, “100% Natural ingredients” or “Organic shampoo.”

8) Post Hoc/False Cause:  This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that because B follows A, A must-have caused B. For example, “After using our toothpaste, many customers report their teeth feeling cleaner than normal.”

9) Reductio Ad Absurdum  (RAA): This occurs when advertisers exaggerate the negative consequences of not using their product to convince you that it is essential. For example, “Don’t settle for less; choose this washing powder!”

10) Slippery Slope:  This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that if you don’t accept their claim or buy their product, something terrible will happen. This usually evokes fear because they do not want to deal with the terrible consequences of doing nothing. For example, “If you don’t buy this car today, you will get a terrible price tomorrow.”

11) Appeal to Novelty: This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that their product is newer or more technologically advanced than their competitors and therefore better. For example, “Our new mobile phone has the latest technology!”

12) Personal Attack:  This is used in political and advertising debates when an opponent’s argument is discredited by insulting them instead of discussing the issues at hand. A common tactic for avoiding discussion about relevant issues. For instance, if somebody accuses you of being sexist for not buying ‘feminine’ deodorant because it says so on your t-shirt.

13) Glittering Generalities: This occurs when advertisers use words that have positive connotations to describe their product. For example, “Delicious,” “Simple,” or “Good.”

14) Appeal to Authority:  This occurs when advertisers convince you that it must be true because an expert says something. However, people only listen to experts because they know more about a specific topic, so we don’t need to question what they say. It’s therefore straightforward for advertisers to exploit this by using celebrities as spokesmodels for their products even if those celebrities don’t have any qualifications in the particular field.

15) Middle Ground/Appeal To Moderate: This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that there are two options but that one option is too extreme. For example, “Vote for this party or a ridiculous one will get in” or “Don’t buy that product or you’ll be covered in poisonous chemicals.” Therefore the other option is the only sensible option.

16) Testimonial: This occurs when advertisers use famous people to endorse their products even if those celebrities aren’t qualified to do so and therefore can’t give an informed opinion on it. For Example, Stephen Hawking approved nutritional supplements despite not having any degree in nutrition and not being a medical doctor.

17) Plain Folks:  This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that because they are just like regular people, their claims must also be valid for ordinary people. For example, “Our soap is just like everyone else’s.”

18) Jingle:  This occurs when an advertisement becomes so memorable that it is still remembered many years later, regardless of how much it has been played. It usually relies on rhyming or other forms of rhythm. The “Cadbury Bunny” jingle is a good example.

19) Testimonial/ Scientific study: This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that because some impartial scientists have tested their product, then their claim must be valid. The problem with this tactic is that if someone is employed by the company carrying out the science, they will get positive results to keep their job. Therefore for all, we know those tests could have been rigged, biased, or the results fudged.

20) Testimonial/ Celebrity study: This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that because some famous people have used their product, then it must be good. However, this is not regularly the issue as plenty of celebrities endorse products they don’t use or believe in, making them nothing more than a spokesperson for the company selling the product. For Example, Nicole Kidman promotes diamonds despite being a Buddhist who believes in reincarnation

21) Testimonial/ Undesirable result:  This occurs when an advertiser tries to convince you that even though using their product can be harmful, it’s still safe because something terrible will happen if you don’t do it anyway. For example, “Weed-killer won’t hurt you, but weeds will grow everywhere if you don’t use our weed killer.”

22) Testimonial/ Celebrity result:  This occurs when an advertiser tries to convince you that because someone famous uses their product, then it must be good. However, the reason why they are well known is not necessarily because they have used high-quality products all their life. Still, simply because of name recognition, i.e., everyone knows who they are even though most people can’t remember what they were famous for in the first place. For Example, Jenny McCarthy endorsed anti-vaccination books despite not being a medical doctor or having any scientific qualifications about immunology or virology.

23) Visual Impact:  This occurs when an advertiser tries to convince you to buy their product by showing off how shiny it is. For example, “Wow! Look at this stunning new car.”

24) Comfort/ Luxury:  This occurs when advertisers try and convince you that their product will give you the luxury of being able to sit back and relax. For example, “You deserve nothing but the best – That’s why we use only the finest leathers.”

25) Social proof occurs when an advertiser tries to convince you that their product is good because many other people are already using it. For example, “3 out of 4 doctors agree this is the best cough syrup”. The issue with this kind of testimonial is that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the proper thing to do because everyone else is doing it. For example, during the second world war, British women were encouraged by government campaigns to cut their hair short to prevent them from bringing lice onto trains which was a real problem. While having your hair cut short might have been popular amongst many women, this didn’t make it any less dangerous or necessary for those who refused. This tactic can also be used by companies trying to convince you that because many other companies are already using their product or service, it must be good. For example, “Our rivals use X, so we should too.”

26) Fear occurs when an advertiser tries to convince you to buy their product by making you afraid of the outcomes if you don’t buy it. For example, “If you haven’t got travel insurance, then your whole family could end up starving in a refugee camp .”However, this tactic tends to work only short-term as opposed to long-term because once people have bought into it, they are unlikely to go out and search for more information about why the claim is probably untrue simply because they have already committed emotionally to the product. For example, while many people may have bought into the fear tactics during 9/11 thinking that their plane might be the next one to hit the twin towers, they didn’t stop to think about why there had never been any other plane hijackings since 9/11, even though flights are now more security conscious than ever before.

State the argument in logical notation, formal logic symbols, and standard semantics. After studying this article on logical fallacies, you will be able to  “Recognize logical fallacies when you see them. Learn how to use truth tables, Venn diagrams, sentence diagrams, and semantic trees to formally analyze arguments. Then apply your new understanding of the structure of arguments to explain why fallacious ones are flawed. “

Introduction A fallacy is a mistaken belief based on unsound reasoning. Faulty reasoning must commit one or more logical fallacies. As a general rule, a fallacy does not merely believe something false. It’s more specific than that: it believes something false because of an invalid or incorrect inference from correct premises or evidence. In other words, if believing something were simply a matter of being wrong, then all beliefs would be false. We say that some beliefs are false because not all reasoning is faulty.

The Concept of Logical Fallacies

A logical fallacy is a misstep in logic, where the propositions committed in the premises of an argument do not provide support for the conclusion drawn from them. They will either misunderstand or fail to make a good connection between statements and conclusions. Logical fallacies occur at the level of belief formation, which involves combining premises to form a conclusion based on deductive rules. Unsound arguments may arrive at true beliefs by accident when inductive inferences add information not already present in their premises:

“If you were to study a million randomly selected people and record everything about them, it is unlikely that you would find any strong correlations between their various attributes. However, we can be absolutely certain that if you did such a study on the world’s population as a whole, there would be many such correlations: each person’s skin color would match their parents’ skin colors; they would sleep approximately eight hours every night; their hair color would likely match their mothers’ hair color at least within some range of probabilities.” (Stanovich link)

Logical fallacies are sometimes appealed to try and support or justify specific claims. This is known as an argumentum ad consequentiam, where if one conclusion is desirable or famous, it should be accepted, even if the reasoning used to get there is faulty. There are many forms of argumentum ad consequentiam, including hasty generalization, false dilemma / black-and-white thinking, slippery slope, and appeal to force.

There are several sorts of logical fallacies that people frequently commit. These standard errors in reasoning can sometimes fool entire nations into accepting falsehoods as truths, mainly propagated by influential leaders or the mass media. Most of these fallacies are classified as either formal (deductive ) or informal (also called inductive ). Fallacies may also be divided between “formal” versus “informal” based on their presentation format. Formal fallacies maintain the same structure as valid arguments but violate truth rules. Informal fallacies have a valid argument structure and may even contain factual statements, yet still errors in their reasoning.

Formal Fallacies

The logical form is represented by its corresponding diagram, revealing further information that may not be obvious from reading the premises and conclusion. According to William Berry, “true premises cannot imply a false conclusion.” The following two samples are considered formal fallacies because they are structurally invalid. That is, they might look like good arguments on the surface, but due to one or more faulty underlying premises or inferences, they will always remain logically incorrect. Here you will sample diagrams for each type of fallacy.

Examples of How This Fallacy is used in Advertising

Infomercials for popular kitchen appliances often claim to cook 80% faster than conventional ovens. However, these comparisons were made with no information about the conditions (heat intensity, temperature range, etc.). Without these facts, it is unthinkable to determine whether or not an 80% gain in speed is realistic or even relevant to the typical use of the appliance. It may be possible under specific test conditions to cook something 80% faster with a product X vs. product Y; however, for most uses, this would not amount to any meaningful time savings (e.g., if one usually leaves their home at 8 am and returns at 6 pm then an 80% increase in cooking time would only save approximately 50 minutes assuming they are only gone for 12 hours).

This is one of the many iconic schemes in use by telemarketers. They will often claim to save you money even if their product costs more than its competitors. For example, they may say that their phone service costs less when compared to other home phone services while neglecting to mention that it’s also slightly more expensive than mobile-only plans, which are becoming increasingly popular. The same tactic is applied in sales pitches for insurance, where truthfully speaking, a specific type of coverage offers better protection but at a far greater cost.

A car dealership uses this ploy all too often when selling extended warranties on new cars. They claim the warranty only adds a few hundred dollars to the total cost of the vehicle yet neglect to mention that it includes a deductible which can often be more expensive than the actual value of the warranty.

Here are some examples from various infomercials:

  • (1) “With this new machine, you’ll make healthier meals 80% faster!”
  • (2) “This car costs less than most other cars in its class with similar gas mileage.”
  • (3) “We’re offering an extended warranty with no deductible!!”
  • (4) “Get the best deal on cable service with our bill savings guarantee.”
  • (5) We have two great deals for you today! You get speaker wire, hookup cable, AND installation is free.
  • The following are ads for cell phone plans featuring ad claims about savings.

Example 1:

“Switch to AT&T and get 4G LTE for less than you’ll pay with Verizon!”

4G LTE is a faster type of mobile internet, but it’s not a guarantee that you will pay less for service from AT&T vs. Verizon. It’s possible to have 4G LTE speeds at reduced prices from both carriers. It depends on the plan that each consumer chooses which carrier gives the best value, not just speed or price alone.

For example 2:

“Switch to Sprint & cut your cell phone bill in half!”

The ad doesn’t explain any of the fees are–it’s unclear how much precisely consumers would save by switching to their service compared to other carriers. Some plans may have cheaper upfront costs but much higher monthly fees. Others might have smaller activation fees but higher monthly costs.

For example 3:

“AT&T has the best price for unlimited data.”

While it’s true that AT&T now offers an unlimited plan for a lower monthly fee than T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint, they are not necessarily “the best” price since there are usually tradeoffs with each option (e.g., slower speeds after using a certain amount of data). It’s impossible to say whether one carrier is the overall “best” value without considering all of this information together.

Admission tickets to tourist attractions will often claim that their prices are ‘up to a certain percentage off the group rate. Sometimes, they will not even bother to put up such qualifiers and simply claim that you can save a set percent (e.g., 20%) by purchasing their tickets instead of the group price. This tactic is often employed in lodging where hotel chains will advertise themselves as being ‘up to 70% off.

The word “Up To” does not mean a sale or reduced cost and can be used in any way possible. For Example: If you go to an upscale restaurant and order steak and potatoes, your server may tell you that “the meal is up to $100”. Well, the meal could be $200 for all we know since their menu prices could be just as much as $400.

Similar to this tactic is that of “Daily Discounts .”Hotel chains will advertise a ‘daily discount’ of 10%. The only snag is that they will give you this bargain on one random day during the year, and the offer only lasts for 24 hours. This means your chances of actually receiving any discounts from their advertised rates are slim and none. If there’s no such thing as a ‘daily discount,’ why do they bother putting it in print? It must be because most people won’t notice or pay attention to these fine details when looking at their advertisement materials.

Why Fallacy

The strength of this advertisement lies in its ability to create an emotional connection with consumers through clever wording choices, imagery, and body language/tone that creates an overall experience. For example, the laugh at the end, “you wanna laugh too?” combined with the girl’s facial expression, gives off an inviting tone that makes people want to be friends with her rather than see her as just another one of those popular girls. The advertisement also uses the “reciprocity principle” to increase its power, wherein people are more likely to help someone who has helped them in some way before. This advertisement is successful because it induces positive feelings through simple statements, building connections between consumers and the advertised brand/item.

Ways to Protect Yourself against Logical Fallacy in Advertising

Advertising is a powerful and persuasive tool that can be used for both good and harm. People use advertising to sell their products and services, create awareness about social issues, support/oppose political candidates, and promote social causes. However, it has its dark side too. Today we’re going to focus on the “evilness” of some adverts by exploring logical fallacies advertisers use to trick you into buying shoddy or dangerous products.

People often refer to advertising as brainwashing because of its ability to manipulate one’s thinking process to make them buy something they do not need or want. The number of psychological tricks advertisers employ is surprisingly high: emotional arousal, appeal to authority (or celebrity endorsement), bandwagon effect (peer pressure), testimonials, transfer, authority, and disguise.

Logical fallacies are false arguments used to make you believe in something without any actual proof or reasoning behind it. All the tricks listed above employ logical fallacies to achieve their goals. Let’s check out each trick with examples of actual advertisements.

Emotional arousal is one of the most potent methods advertisers use to influence people’s purchasing decisions. This method works because our emotions overpower our rational thinking process and make quick decisions about which product we want to buy. Those who successfully use emotional arousal techniques can even engage multiple senses at once (we’ll discuss this later). Here is an example:

The ad features crying children and a desperate mother who can’t feed them as she has no money. The copy suggests that a few dollars a day can help feed these poor children. The ad tugged at the audience’s heartstrings and induce feelings of shame, guilt, and empathy to get them to do something about it.

Appeal to authority is another crucial logical fallacy advertisers use for their benefit. It works by simply telling people why they should believe an expert or authority figure who endorses their product/service/candidate/cause instead of themself presenting facts or evidence, which will require more struggle on the buyer’s part.

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