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False Connections

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False Connections

In rhetoric, rhetorical devices are linguistic tools that use a particular style or method to communicate or persuade. Rhetorical devices can be manipulated and misused to give the appearance of sound logic to persuade an audience of a particular argument—this is called a rhetorical fallacy, and it results in faulty beliefs.

For example, let's say someone told you that reading Oscar Wilde's work is a waste of time because he ultimately died in disgrace. What is wrong with this argument? The first part is their opinion, and the second part does not impact the main idea in the discussion (i.e., whether Oscar Wilde is a good writer).

Sometimes rhetorical fallacies pass unnoticed in discussions, which is why it’s important to stay aware of them. Inaccurate connections, also called false connections, are a branch of rhetorical fallacy that can be especially difficult to identify.

False Connection Definition

Inaccurate connections are a division of rhetorical fallacies, which rely on a faulty connection between the premises and the conclusion.

Rhetorical fallacies, also called fallacies of argument or logical fallacies, are a type of deceptive argument that have misleading reasoning at its foundation. People use rhetorical fallacies when the facts and evidence don’t support their stance in an argument. People also sometimes fall into these fallacies unconsciously without realizing or meaning to. Regardless of intention, rhetorical fallacies are a threat to sound logic and dependable argumentation.

False connections can happen in several ways, but the foundation of the argument is always defective because of the false connection between the premise and the conclusion.

A premise is a statement that provides reason or support for the main claim, also called the conclusion, of an argument.

If a premise does not truly support the conclusion someone is arguing for, there is a false connection somewhere in the argument. Remember the Oscar Wilde example? The premise of his poor social standing does not support the conclusion that his novels, plays, and poems are less valuable. These things are not connected.

Effects of False Connections

There are so many variations of inaccurate connections, but many of them appear to have the same issue: misplaced causation. One highly common mistake is identifying a correlation and believing it to be causation.

Correlation means there is a noticeable pattern between two variables, but they are not connected.

VS.

Causation means one event caused another to occur.

False Connections, Newton's Cradle, StudySmarterA cause-and-effect relationship is defined by the principle of causation

The effect of confusing correlation for causation is misunderstanding the world around us. For example, if you believe that increased use of a heater causes winter, for example, you might think it’s better to leave your heater off to ward off the winter weather.

Not only do you misunderstand things, but there can be real consequences for those beliefs. If you thought the heaters cause winter, you would suffer through an icy winter and wonder why it is so cold when you haven’t turned a single heater on.

Sound logic would dictate that the cause and effect relationship between heaters and cold weather is rather silly. But false connections are not always as easy to identify, especially when used in arguments surrounding complex issues. This is where rhetorical fallacies can easily enter the discussion and go unnoticed.

False Connection Fallacy

To avoid rhetorical fallacies, it’s important to first understand how they function and are constructed. People understand fallacies by first dividing them according to where the faulty reasoning begins; fallacies are either formal or informal.

Formal fallacies include an error in the construction of the argument, or in how it’s formed. In this case, “formal” doesn’t mean proper, it has to do with the formation of the argument. Informal fallacies contain an error in content or context and have to do with the substance of the argument instead of the way it is formed.

Inaccurate connections are a branch of informal fallacies. The false connection between the premise of an argument and its conclusion is a result of a misunderstanding—whether intentional or not—of the substance of the argument.

The common phrase, “Correlation does not imply causation” applies to many issues involving inaccurate connections. This means that just because two things share a correlation, or a connection of some kind, does not mean that one caused the other.

To say that one thing caused another is quite difficult to prove because establishing causation requires appropriately designed experimentation. Since causation is hard to prove, this leaves a lot of room for mistaken logic to creep into the argument.

There are three main types of inaccurate connections: faulty analogy, faulty causality, and reverse causation.

False Connection: Faulty Analogy

Formula: Because A and B have quality X in common, they must also have quality Y in common.

A faulty, or weak analogy is an informal logical fallacy. This type of logical fallacy makes the mistake of assuming that just because two things are similar in one way, they are alike in other ways. False analogies are a form of faulty inductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning is the process of forming a broad generalization from specific observations.

Schools with expansive music programs produce students with better reading skills. So, if we want to raise the reading level at poorer-performing schools, all we need to do is expand music programs.

There may be a correlation between expansive music programs and students with excellent reading skills, but that does not mean that the music program is the cause of better reading skills.

False Connection: Faulty Causality

Formula: Because Y followed X, X must have caused Y.

Faulty causality, also known by the Latin phrase post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means “after this, therefore because of this,” occurs when someone incorrectly assumes that one thing caused another. Like all false connection fallacies, faulty causality is an informal fallacy that has to do with misplaced causation.

With faulty causality, there may not even be any correlation between the two events. Someone may try to establish a cause-and-effect relationship to suit their agenda, but there is nothing to suggest they are closely related. It is important to note that sequence is not causation.

The protagonist became a detective and then had kids. He has a bad relationship with his kids, so his career must have negatively impacted his role as a father.

As with faulty analogies, there might be a correlation here between the protagonist’s job and his relationship with his kids, but there is no way to establish a cause. Just because something happened (in the example, the protagonist became a detective) before the conclusion, does not mean it is the cause of the conclusion (the protagonist’s sour relationship with his kids).

False Connection: Reverse Causation

Formula: X caused Y when in reality Y caused X.

Reverse causation is a false belief that one thing caused another when the truth is the opposite. This happens frequently because it is easy to spot a correlation between two events, but it can be more difficult to say which thing causes which to happen (or if there is a cause and effect relationship at all). Again, this does not have to do with the formation of the argument, but rather the substance of what the arguer is presenting.

False Connections, Reversed arrow, StudySmarterReverse causation is also called retrocausation or backwards causation.

Writing poetry causes depression.

This statement is false causation because, in reality, it is more likely that depressed people tend to write poetry as an expression of difficult emotions. Poetry does not cause depression. Likewise, not all poets are depressed, but many poets may write because of their depression.

More False Connection Examples

Read through the additional examples and see if you can determine which type of inaccurate connection each example is.

A: Research shows that schools that have smaller classroom sizes (fifteen or fewer students per classroom) produce students with better grades when compared to schools with larger classrooms (twenty-five or more students per classroom). Therefore, smaller classrooms cause students to have better grades.

Is it possible to know which factor determines better grades in this example? The grades of the students who are sent to the school with smaller classes may also have more supportive parents, or the school may have access to other helpful programs in their community. Is it possible to know which came first?

Is this example a faulty analogy, faulty causation, or reverse causation? See the answer below.

B: If we allow professionals to research information for their jobs, then we should allow students to look up information during exams.

There is a disconnect between the claim and the premise in this example. Are these two professions alike enough to compare?

Is this example a faulty analogy, faulty causation, or reverse causation? See the answer below.

C: I downloaded new software onto my computer, then it crashed. The new software must have caused my computer to crash.

Is it possible that the two events—installing new software and the computer crashing—are totally unrelated? Is it fair to claim the timeline as a premise of the claim that the software caused the computer to crash?

Is this example a faulty analogy, faulty causation, or reverse causation? See the answer below.

Example A – Reverse causation, Example B – Faulty analogy, Examples C – Faulty causation

False Connections - Key Takeaways

  • Inaccurate or false connections are a division of rhetorical fallacies, which rely on a faulty connection between the premises and the conclusion.
  • A common result of a faulty connection between the premise and the conclusion of an argument is a result of confusing correlation with causation.
  • Fallacies are either formal—having to do with how they are formed—or informal—having to do with the substance of the argument.
  • There are three main types of false connections:
    • Faulty analogy
    • Faulty causality
    • Reverse causation

Frequently Asked Questions about False Connections

False connections are a division of rhetorical fallacies, which rely on a faulty connection between the premises and the conclusion. 

You can identify false connections when the premises do not align with, or necessitate, the conclusion of an argument. 

A false connection is when the claim of an argument is that one thing caused another, but there is no sufficient evidence to support the claim. For example, someone claims that the rooster crowing caused the sun to come up.

A synonym for false connection is inaccurate connection or faulty connection.

Types of false cause, or false connections, are faulty causality, faulty analogy, and reverse causation.

Final False Connections Quiz

Question

"Snow is white. That bird is white. Therefore, that bird is cold."

What is this an example of?

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Answer

All of the other answers!

Show question

Question

A faulty analogy is what kind of fallacy?

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Answer

Informal

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Question

"They are both cars. Therefore, they both run on gas."


Is this a faulty analogy?

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Answer

Yes.

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Question

"There’s an awful lot of crime in this part of town. The folks around here are criminals."


Is this a faulty analogy?

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Answer

No. This is a hasty generalization. 

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Question

As long as two things share _____ in common, a false analogy can be made.


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Answer

One thing

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Question

Does a faulty analogy use valid logic?

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Answer

Yes. However, it is does not use sound logic.

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Question

Why is a faulty analogy unsound?

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Answer

Because the premise of a faulty analogy is not true.

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Question

True or false:  statistics cannot create a false analogy.

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Answer

False. 

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Question

To avoid faulty analogy, don't _____.


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Answer

Make assumptions

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Question

To avoid faulty analogy, _____.

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Answer

Go deeper into your research

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Question

If your premise is unsound, can you have a faulty analogy?

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Answer

No. The premise of a faulty analogy is unsound.

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Question

What is another name for a faulty analogy?

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Answer

False analogy.

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Question

Is a faulty analogy a false cause?

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Answer

No. A false cause is believing that Y is caused by X, simply because Y follows X.

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Question

True or false: a faulty analogy is a kind of hasty generalization

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Answer

True

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Question

True or false: a hasty generalization is a kind of faulty analogy?

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Answer

False

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Question

What are inaccurate, or false, connections?

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Answer

Inaccurate connections are a division of rhetorical fallacies, which rely on a faulty connection between the premises and the conclusion. 

Show question

Question

_____________ , also called fallacies of argument or logical fallacies, are a type of deceptive argument that has misleading reasoning at its foundation. 

Show answer

Answer

Rhetorical fallacies 

Show question

Question

False connections can happen in several ways, but the foundation of the argument is always defective because of the false connection between the _______  and the ________. 

Show answer

Answer

premise, conclusion

Show question

Question

True or false: If a premise does not truly support the conclusion someone is arguing for, there is a false connection somewhere in the argument. 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

To what is the following definition referring: correlation or causation?


___________ means there is a noticeable pattern between two variables. 

Show answer

Answer

Correlation

Show question

Question

To what is the following definition referring: correlation or causation?


_________ means one event caused another to occur. 

Show answer

Answer

Causation

Show question

Question

The belief that increased use of electric heaters causes cold weather is an example of what type of inaccurate connection: faulty analogy, reverse causation, or faulty causality?

Show answer

Answer

Reverse causation

Show question

Question

The following formula is an example of what type of inaccurate connection?


Because Y followed X, X must have caused Y

Show answer

Answer

Faulty causality

Show question

Question

The following formula is an example of what type of inaccurate connection?

Because A and B have quality X in common, they must also have quality Y in common

Show answer

Answer

Faulty analogy

Show question

Question

The following formula is an example of what type of inaccurate connection?


 X caused Y when in reality Y caused X

Show answer

Answer

Reverse causation

Show question

Question

What is the difference between formal and informal fallacies? 

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Answer

Formal fallacies have to do with the formation of the argument. Informal fallacies contain an error in content or context and have to do with the substance of the argument instead of the way it is formed. 

Show question

Question

Are inaccurate connections an example of informal or formal fallacies?

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Answer

Informal

Show question

Question

Complete the phrase: "___________ does not imply causation"

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Answer

Correlation

Show question

Question

To say that one thing caused another is quite difficult to prove because establishing causation requires what?

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Answer

Appropriately designed experimentation

Show question

Question

Many variations of inaccurate connections appear to have the same issue; misplaced __________

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Answer

Causation

Show question

Question

What is reverse causation?

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Answer

Reverse causation is the false belief that event A causes event B to happen, when the truth is that the reverse is true. Reverse causation—which is sometimes called reverse causality—typically occurs because someone notices that two things share a causal relationship, but they don't understand the order of causation. 

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Question

People frequently confuse causal relationships for things that are ___________. 

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Answer

Correlated

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Question

What is the difference between correlation and causation?

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Answer

Causation is the exclusive connection where something causes another to happen. Correlation is not the same thing; it is a relationship where two things simply share commonality, but they are not connected by causation.

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Question

Finish the adage: "Correlation does not imply ________."

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Answer

Causation

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Question

To assume that one variable is dependent on another simply because they have something in common is considered a ___________.

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Answer

Logical fallacy

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Question

Reverse causality is an informal rhetorical fallacy, which means what?

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Answer

It means that the fallacy does not have to do with the format of the argument, but rather the substance of it. 

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What does non causa pro causa mean?

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Answer

Non-cause for cause (Latin)

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Question

True or false: When an argument or idea is found to contain a logical fallacy, it should be immediately discredited. 

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Answer

True

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Question

Which of the following is not a synonym for reverse causation?

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Answer

Simultaneity

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Question

Is the following is an example of reverse causation?


The belief that lightning causes thunder.

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Answer

No. Lightning does cause thunder, so this is a causal relationship. 

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Question

Is the following an example of reverse causality or simultaneity? 


There is more crime in neighborhoods with higher police presence. Police are present in neighborhoods with higher levels of crime.

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Answer

Simultaneity.

Show question

Question

True or false: There is an exact formula to test for reverse causation.

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Answer

False

Show question

Question

What three questions should you ask if you'd like to investigate a possibility of reverse causation?

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Answer

  • Is it possible that event 2 happened first?
  • Can I objectively rule out the possibility that event 2 caused event 1?
  • Do I find that changes in event 2 happened before event 1 occurred?

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Question

What is simultaneity?

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Answer

Simultaneity is also known as confounding causation, or the Latin term cum hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means "with this, therefore because of this." All this means two things happen at the same time, which leads some to mistakenly believe one of them caused the other to happen.

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Question

How are reverse causation and simultaneity different?

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Answer

The difference between reverse causality and simultaneity is that reverse causality is the mistaken belief that one thing causes another, while simultaneity is when two things happen at the same time and each impacts the other. 

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Question

What is faulty causality?

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Answer

Faulty causality is the inaccurate assumption that one thing caused another to happen, based solely on the fact that one came before the other.

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Question

Which Latin term represents faulty causality?

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Answer

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

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Question

Faulty causality is a(n) ________.

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Answer

Logical fallacy

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Question

True or false: the outcome of an argument containing faulty causality is always inaccurate.

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Answer

False

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Question

Faulty causality is one of a few false cause, or questionable cause, fallacies. What are the others?

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Answer

Reverse causation and confounding causation

Show question

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