Hasty Generalization

Here is another fallacy that can show up easily in everyday life.

When one commits the Hasty Generalization fallacy, one attempts to use inductive logic with too small a sample size.

What in the world does that mean? Well, I am glad that you asked.

There are a few methods to figure things out. Induction is one of them. It occurs when you draw a conclusion from evidence gathered. You generalize based on observed experiences. I talk more about it here.

In that post, I mention that no inductive argument can guarantee that its conclusion will be right 100% of the time. There is always the possibility that the engine will not misfire when the motorcycle goes over that next bump.

But this does not mean that induction should be considered an irrational form of thinking. It just means that the number of times that you observe something needs to be taken into account when you decide to make a generalization.

When we draw conclusions based on too few observations, we are making a hasty generalization.

Defining the number of observations needed is difficult. We all have different opinions on how many times we need to see something in order to believe that it is consistent. However, there are cases where everyone can agree that conclusions can not be drawn until we see further evidence.

For example: If I flipped a coin, it landed on heads once, and then I said that it will always land on heads, would you believe me?

We have biases, assumptions, leaps in logic, delusions. All influence our decisions on when we have seen enough evidence to induce a conclusion.

The question is: What are you trying to prove when going down this inductive line of reasoning? Are you generalizing hastily because you just want to be right instead of wanting the truth?

I have talked about hasty generalizations before. My Crash Numbers post contained a brief explanation of it in between complaints about my boss. But I figured that this irrational thought was so common that it deserved its own dedicated post.

Check out my other posts about fallacies:

Photo courtesy of K3nna 

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