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What are Logical Fallacies That Appeal to Emotion Rather Than Reason?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated: May 23, 2024

Logical fallacies are errors of reason that can occur in inductive reasoning. Since inductive reasoning moves from the particular to the general, it is important to determine how much and what kind of evidence you need to make a valid argument. Failure to have proper evidence is linked to several kinds of logical fallacies.

Since logic is one of the main techniques used in persuasion, being able to identify and discount logical fallacies in others' arguments and avoid making them in one's own arguments are both important. One of the things that can undermine logic is resting arguments on an appeal to emotion, rather than arguing on rational grounds. There are several errors that one can make through an appeal to emotion, and the following fallacies of appeal to emotion occur so frequently that they are named.

Appeal to hate. This fallacy connects the quality of an idea to its general appeal. An example is: The hard-working families of this city are adamantly opposed to this change in the high school graduation requirements enacted, and that proves that it's a bad idea. This is a logical fallacy of appeal to emotion because the quality of a suggestion cannot be determined from the emotional response of people who support it or reject it, but resides in the details of the idea itself.

Appeal to force. Using threat or force to persuade a course of action is an appeal to force. It is another example of a way to involve emotions rather than reason in a decision. An example is: If you don't support my candidacy for mayor, you'll be sorry, believe you me . . . The fear of dire consequences to one's person is not the kind of influence that should determine political decisions -- it is an appeal to emotion to force a decision, rather than an appeal to reason to make a logical decision.

Guilt by association. In this fallacy, there is an assumption that a connection furnishes more information than it actually does. An example is: The chairperson was in office during the purchase of that hideous new oil painting, so of course, we can't trust her judgment . . . This fallacy may fail either by drawing the erroneous conclusion that because two things are connected in one regard, they are connected in every regard, or alternatively, that anyone with any connection to certain items or people must be beyond the pale.

In the above example, holding an office during an event does not necessarily identify that person as supporting or responsible for the event. For all we know, the chairperson might have voted against the purchase and been overruled by others. Knowing as little as we do, it is certainly not valid to draw general conclusions about her judgment. By trying to engage our wrath about a previous decision, the argument is an appeal to emotion and tries to involve our emotions about the earlier decision in the current discussion. This is not a rational way to make a decision.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for Language & Humanities, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By widget2010 — On Jan 21, 2011

All three of these forms of appealing to emotion happen in politics today.

In many local elections on issues like school taxes, or even more federal issues like health care, there is undoubtedly some faction which argues, for example, "The poorest people in this city will find this tax hard to pay, and that means it is bad," when a more detailed look at the statistics of a town might show you that the poorest people are rarely home owners, and therefore do not have to pay property taxes.

In candidacy elections, I feel this appeal to force has become more and more common. Arguments like "If you do not elect this person, the country will fall apart!" or "if you do not vote for me, I will be back again!" suggest the idea of using fear and anger to get votes.

Finally, guilt by association also happens constantly. Every US president is accused of being to blame for any increase in debt or decrease in budget during his term, even though these things often run over from previous administrations.

While it is clear, once you read this article and look at examples, that these are logical fallacies, they unfortunately rule the way many voters cast their ballots.

By frankjoseph — On Jun 12, 2008

Appeal to Sympathy (also called the Appeal to Pity or, in Latin, ad misericordiam). Pity or sympathy substitutes evidence for an assertion. For example, "The troops should come home today because their families miss them." It may be true that the troops should come home, but it is not a logical reason that they should come home *because* their families miss them, however sympathetic we may be for that difficulty.

Appeal to Flattery. Flattery, compliments, and/or praise substitutes evidence for an assertion. For example, "But, you're smart, so you understand why communism is far superior to capitalism."

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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