I've just started reading psychologist Robyn Dawes' recent book Everyday Irrationality: How Pseudo-Scientists, Lunatics, and the Rest of Us Systematically Fail to Think Rationally. I expect that I'll review it in full in the future, but the following part of the Preface caught my eye:
" '[S]chizophrenic reasoning' was believed to be different from ordinary types of thought. For example, a widely quoted type of distortion was illustrated by the case of a schizophrenic woman who believed that she was the Virgin Mary because she was a virgin. This conclusion was thought to be 'reasoning according to the Von Domarus principle', by which schizophrenic individuals often inferred identity from common predicates. The problem I noted, however, was that reasoning according to the Von Domarus principle did not seem specific to schizophrenics." (P. xi)
Indeed, not! The so-called "Von Domarus principle" is what logicians have known for over two-thousand years as the fallacy of undistributed middle. Not only have logicians known of this type of error in reasoning, but they have also known that it is by no means restricted to schizophrenics. This goes to show that psychologists could save the trouble of having to reinvent the wheel if they would pay a little attention to logic.
Name that Fallacy!
Spinsanity's Brendan Nyhan has another excellent article, this time criticizing Media Whores Online for its "abusive and irrational rhetoric". What really caught my eye was the following defence of MWO, taken from an Eric Alterman column:
"[T]hey[MWO]'re willing to 'mimic the tactics of the wingnuts,' referring to all with whom they disagree as 'whores' or occasionally 'fascists' and refusing, on principle, to criticize any writer whose work they deem to be that of a 'non-whore.' [E.g., Alterman?ed.] Hypocritical, you say? 'We don't believe it is hypocrisy at all to follow their standard, but fairness,' responds Jennifer Kelly, the site's guiding spirit ."
The Regression Fallacy is.
Fallacies in the News
Howard Kurtz has a column on the recent spate of kidnapping stories in the media. As Kurtz explains, there really is no crime wave; rather, there is a wave of media attention being given to kidnapping. Kidnappings that would have been covered locally are now getting national attention.
The problem with such media feeding frenzies is the so-called "Volvo" fallacy, which leads people to overestimate the likelihood of kidnapping. Not only are people unnecessarily frightenedincluding the children that they seek to protectbut parents are distracted from more significant risks to their kids' safety.
Bear Market Bull
Brendan Nyhan has a brief follow-up to his earlier Spinsanity article detailing the fallacious spinning of the recent fall of the stock market.