Ad Populum, Appeal to Emotions, Appeal to Force, Appeal to Unqualified Authority

Fallacy 1

A: Most Americans agree that moving US troops into the Crimean would be a bad idea. Therefore, we shouldn’t do it.

B: Most people agree that vitamin C cures the common cold. Therefore, you should take it.

C: A lot of people agree that Hondas are better than Fords, therefore they are.

D: Increasingly, people believe that Eastern religions help us get in touch with our true inner being. Therefore, Eastern religions help us to get in touch with our true inner being.

E: In the spring of 2015 over 105 million Americans ate at McDonald’s. The food at McDonald’s must be awesome.








Explanation of Ad Populum (appeal to the people):  This fallacy is committed when the arguer appeals to popular opinion to support their claim.  Exceptions are cases where popular opinion is relevant (e.g., fashion–Everyone thinks your pants are out of style).

Bandwagon Effect (variation of argument from popularity)  Often used in advertising through images of beautiful/happy people using a product…”you can be like us too!”


B:  The new PowerTangerine computer gives you the power you need. If you buy one, people will envy your power. They will look up to you and wish they were just like you. You will know the true joy of power. TangerinePower.

C:  The new UltraSkinny diet will make you feel great. No longer be troubled by your weight. Enjoy the admiring stares of the opposite sex. Revel in your new freedom from fat. You will know true happiness if you try our diet!

D:  His healthcare policy is un-American:  It needs to be repealed.

E:  A true American wouldn’t cut funding from our troops.  Why do you hate America? 

F:  Give Bob a lighter sentence because he’s an orphan that grew up in hardship. Have a heart! 

G: Power lines cause cancer.  I met a little boy with cancer who lived just 20 miles from a power line who looked into my eyes and said, in his weak voice, “Please do whatever you can so that other kids won’t have to go through what I am going through.” I urge you to vote for this bill to tear down all power lines and replace them with monkeys on treadmills.








Explanation of Appeal to Emotions: When the arguer tries to elicit feelings of pity, outrage, compassion, pride, nationalism, etc…instead of providing reasons for or against a position.  Charities use this a lot in their advertising.  Political ads use it a lot too (appeal to nationalism).  Debatable cases: when human emotions are an important factor in the issue. 

Fallacy 11
A:  Unless you get rid of your suspected chemical weapons we will bomb you.

B:  If you don’t do your homework, I will beat you.

C: If you don’t concede that [Insert any god’s name] is the One True Loving God, He will punish you for all eternity.








Appeal to Force: When the arguer essentially presents a threat of force instead of a reason for accepting a position.


Fallacy 12

A: Jenny McCarthy and Robert DeNero say vaccines are bad. You shouldn’t give them to your children.

B: Gwyneth Paltro says GMOs are really bad for you. You shouldn’t eat them.

C: President Obama says smoking is bad, therefore you shouldn’t smoke.






Appeal to (Unqualified) Authority (Arugmentum Ad Verecundiam—Arg. from reverence or respect):  When someone supports their claim by appealing to a non-expert on the subject or when someone cites an expert on subject A in support of a conclusion regarding subject B, e.g., “My French professor told me there are no books worth reading in Spanish.” Note that even if the conclusion is true, appealing to an non-expert still commits the fallacy

* Remember: If the appeal to authority is legitimate if the expert cited is an expert in the relevant field, e.g., Stephen Hawking on the subject of physics, or a psychiatrist on the subject of schizophrenia.

Importantly, differences between legitimate and non-legitimate appeals to authority can be subtle. Consider the qualifications of two doctors (M.D.s) with respect to their ability to advise you about vaccines and world travel – Dr. A is a plastic surgeon, and Dr. B is an M.D. with a PhD in epidemiology (the study of disease and how it spreads).