Click here to skip to content
Dr. Jay
College of Arts, Humanities
and Social Sciences
Click here to go to Humboldt State University's Main Page
Argumentation and Critical Thinking Tutorial


Quick Review

This page reviews the definitions of fourteen fallacies and their variations. In most cases a common English name for each fallacy is used, with alternative names in parentheses. This page does not describe the fallacies in detail, so you should be sure to read some material on these fallacies before you take the tests.

These fallacies have been grouped together because they can all be considered to be refutation in arguments. Keep in mind that they could also be grouped in other ways, as could the fallacies in other sections of this site.


APPEALS TO EMOTIONS: attempts to gain agreement based solely on the feelings aroused in the message. Specific types of appeals to emotions include:

APPEAL TO COMPASSION (appeal to pity, ad misericordiam ): an appeal to emotion that argues that a conclusion should be made based on feeling sorry for someone when that feeling is irrelevant to the conclusion.

APPEAL TO FEAR (scare tactics): an appeal to emotion that argues actions should be taken to avoid negative results, when the negative results are exaggerated, unlikely or irrelevant.

APPEAL TO INDIGNATION: an appeal to emotion that argues against a position based only on negative personal feelings toward the position.

APPEAL TO JOY: an appeal to emotion that argues something should be done only because it will make the person doing it feel good.

APPEAL TO LOYALTY: an appeal to emotion that argues an action should be taken based only on the need to be loyal to someone or to a group.

APPEAL TO POPULARITY: an appeal to emotion that argues someone should do something only because it will make that person better liked by others.

APPEAL TO SPITE: an appeal to emotion that argues someone should do something only because of ill will towards someone else.

APPEAL TO FORCE (ad baculum ): using threats of harm instead of good evidence and sound reasoning to gain agreement.

ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PERSON (ad hominem ): attacking the character or background of the person making an argument instead of responding to that person's claim, evidence, and reasoning.

EVADING THE ISSUE (red herring, irrelevant conclusion): supporting a claim with evidence or reasoning that is not relevant to the proposition, or responding to another's argument by changing the subject.

FALSE CONSOLATION: arguing that someone is not really harmed because things could be worse or by pointing out what they have to be thankful for.

GENETIC FALLACY: arguing that an idea should be accepted or disregarded only because of its source.

HORSE LAUGH: responding to an argument with an expression of derision instead of a counter argument.

IGNORATIO ELENCHI .(ignorance of refutation): causing confusion during refutation because of a real or feigned lack of ability to engage in refutation.

REDUCING TO AN ABSURDITY (reductio ad absurdum ): characterizing an opponent's position in such a way to make it or its consequences appear to be ridiculous.

STRAW PERSON (straw man): asserting an argumentative opponent has taken an easily defeated position, which the opponent has not really taken, defeating the position, and acting as if you've done significant damage to that person's overall argument.

TU QUOQUE .("you too" fallacy, two wrongs make a right, common practice): responding to charges of wrongdoing by saying the accuser or others do something equally bad.

Select a test