Hasty Generalization – a
conclusion formed without evidence, often the product of an emotional reaction.
A hasty generalization involves an over-reaction
to one occurrence that grafted onto the entire group. It is the reverse
of the logic used in a stereotype — a person makes a hasty generalization
when he implies that all things in one group must share the traits of this
one individual from the group. The resulting conclusions become mere
claims without merit. The arguer must show evidence when connecting
premises with conclusions to avoid making this error.
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Hasty generalizations are also similar to false cause fallacies because people often think “backwards” incorrectly. We may recognize an isolated problem (one female driver cut you off on the freeway) but leap backwards from the conclusion to the premise to establish the reason: “All women are bad drivers.” To assume that her status as a woman is the reason for her questionable driving skills is a stereotype. Of course, men can also be bad drivers. This hasty generalization is probably the most prevalent of all the fallacies discussed.
A concerned citizen says: “That man is an alcoholic. Liquor should be banned.”
One abusive person should not ruin the participation of law-abiding citizens in legal activities. An argument to ban liquor can easily be made by pointing to evidence suggesting that most people will (at one time or another) drink to excess and endanger their lives or the lives of others. To suggest prohibition because of one victim falls into the reverse stereotype again – the characteristics of one intoxicated individual do not necessarily transfer to everybody else.
The speaker needs to prove that human nature leads us to drinking and other risky behavior, and that this one drunk man is really the face of most people. Should we ban cars as well because some people abuse their privileges? Should we ban handguns because a few innocent victims get caught in crossfire? Let’s not be too hasty!
A frustrated Ford owner says: “My car broke down today! Fords are worthless pieces of garbage!”
Every batch of new cars
will contain a “lemon.” When we unfortunately purchase a bad vehicle,
we can easy overgeneralize the traits of this car onto the other cars on
the lot. Some Ford models do have a track record of needing repairs
(remember the Pinto or the Tempo?), but each car has unique differences
that makes it deviate from the norm (either for the better or for the worse).
Although most people might say that they will never buy the product again, making a conclusion based on one example is dangerous thinking. One bad date can cause the following response: “All men are jerks. I hate all men.” Some men do not behave properly, but most probably can be let out of the house now and then! Conclusions should be drawn from valid evidence, not from hasty overreactions.
Time usually heals most wounds, and this allows
a person an opportunity to reflect back on an event with greater perspective
and emotional detachment. We are always wiser in hindsight.