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Hasty Generalization

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Hasty Generalization

If you don't like one song from an artist, does that mean all their songs stink? To think so is to make a hasty generalization. Experiences have a way of pushing people to draw conclusions. This is fair, but only when the number of experiences match the breadth of the conclusion. Hasty generalizations lead to misconceptions and failed arguments.

Definition of the Hasty Generalization Fallacy

A hasty generalization is a logical fallacy. A fallacy is an error of some kind.

A logical fallacy is employed like a logical reason, but is actually flawed and illogical.

Hasty generalization is specifically an informal logical fallacy, which means that its fallacy lies not in the structure of the logic (which would be a formal logical fallacy), but rather in something else. Here's a full definition of the fallacy.

A hasty generalization is reaching a generalized conclusion about something based on a small sample of evidence.

A hasty generalization can occur in a single claim or in an argument involving multiple people. In the following example, pay attention to what is underlined; that is the hasty generalization.

Hasty Generalization Example 1

Person A: This young fella bagging my groceries didn’t look me in the eye, didn’t smile, didn’t say anything to me when I told him to have a nice day. Kids these days have no respect.

In this example, Person A makes a hasty generalization. Based on one anecdotal experience, Person A draws a conclusion about “kids these days”, which is extremely broad. The conclusion does not match the evidence.

Why Hasty Generalization Is a Fallacy

The flaw with a hasty generalization is the lack of sufficient evidence. Broad claims require broad evidence, and so on.

If Person B claims, “I saw a brown car, therefore all cars are brown,” that is obviously absurd. This is a hasty generalization, where Person B uses only a small piece of evidence to draw a conclusion about a lot more.

When someone generalizes in this way, they are assuming things. Hasty generalizations are often borne from anecdotes, which are dubious pieces of evidence.

Hasty Generalization Example 2

Here is another brief example of a hasty generalization.

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

For the sake of analysis, let's say that the first part, “there’s an awful lot of crime in this part of town”, is statistically accurate. The hasty generalization occurs in the second part, then, when Person A uses insufficient evidence to draw a large conclusion about “folks” in the area.

In order to be accurate, Person A needs to be specific in their claims, and they need to clearly link their evidence to those claims.

When it comes to formulating conclusions, don't make mountains out of molehills!

Hasty Generalization molehill StudySmarterYou can't justify calling this a mountain, flaticon

Example of Hasty Generalization (Essay Quote)

Not all examples of hasty generalization are short or obvious. Sometimes, they are employed in essays and articles. When this happens, they can be harder to spot. Here’s an essay paragraph that employs the hasty generalization in a sneakier way.

In the story, Tuwey says on page 105, “Building a dam won’t work here in the park.” This is the point in the novel that the Walter family is trying to prevent damage to the nature reserve (the park). Tuwey leads the way throughout, and his issues with construction deepen. On page 189, he laments, “If the city folks knew how much they needed trees, they’d quit tryin’ to build scaffolds ‘cross the place.” Clearly, Tuwey has a problem with buildings and construction. It isn’t long after that Tuwey attempts to bribe the new park warden to keep the construction out, even the construction of a restroom facility.

Can you identify the hasty generalization? Remember, what conclusion does not match the evidence provided?

The answer: “Clearly, Tuwey has a problem with buildings and construction.”

This is a hasty generalization because the evidence only supports the contention that Tuwey doesn’t approve of building in the nature reserve. It doesn’t support a conclusion that he is broadly against buildings and construction.

Because this generalization is hasty, it would be very easy for the essayist to get off track at this point, and continue down a line of reasoning that is flawed. The brief and unassuming nature of a hasty generalization is a big reason why you have to be so careful every time you draw a conclusion.

In an essay, when one point of your logic is faulty, it can create a domino effect that destroys the rest of your claims. Be sure that when your whole argument is predicated on a prior claim being true, the veracity of that prior claim is verified.

Hasty Generalization domino effect StudySmarterOne flaw to start them all, flaticon

Tips to Avoid Hasty Generalization

When writing your own essay, here are some tips to avoid making this logical fallacy.

Slow Down to Avoid Hasty Generalization

The word “hasty” is in the name of the fallacy for a reason.

When you are writing, don’t jump to your conclusion because you feel pushed or are in a rush. If you don’t slow down to make sure that your logic is straight, you will get ahead of yourself, and you might find that you have hastily generalized a book, a group, or a character.

The Scale Test to Avoid Hasty Generalization

Whenever you draw a conclusion in your essay, immediately stop and apply the scale test. This is a very easy test:

Big claim = a lot of evidence, small claim = not much evidence.

If you use a word like “all” or “most” in a conclusion, be sure that your evidence scales. Does it cover “all” or “most” things? It probably won’t scale, so try to make a smaller and more specific claim.

Smaller and more specific claims don’t need as much evidence. 1-3 pieces should suffice.

Support multiple smaller points using logical evidence. Then, as you verify these points, use them to support your thesis statement.

These “smaller points” will be in your body paragraphs.

Erase Preconceptions to Avoid Hasty Generalization

When preconceptions creep into your essay, they corrode your logic. This is because they have a way of moving your argument along in your own head, when really the argument doesn't progress without written evidence. Preconceptions become unstated conclusions, and that will not do when all your conclusions need valid support.

For example, if you don’t like a character in a story, don’t write about the character with the underlying assumption that your reader doesn’t like them. Keep your reader in the loop at all times.

Preconceptions are also dangerous because they can be supported by fallacious evidence and opinions. Bigotry is based on faulty preconceptions.

Synonyms for Hasty Generalization

You might hear this fallacy referenced by other names, including the “faulty generalization", “sweeping generalization”, and an “argument from small numbers”. In Latin, this kind of argument is called dicto simpliciter.

The hasty generalization is an example of jumping to conclusions. When you jump to conclusions, you fail to take the necessary time to procure evidence in order to draw your conclusion.

Although not synonymous, racism and other forms of bigotry commonly result from hasty generalizations.

Hasty generalizations are not glittering generalities. A glittering generality is a form of propaganda. It is not a logical fallacy. A glittering generality is a slogan such as "Believe In Change". It sounds positive and forward-moving, but is devoid of content.

Hasty Generalization - Key Takeaways

  • A hasty generalization is reaching a generalized conclusion about something based on a small sample of evidence.
  • One piece of faulty or fallacious logic can destroy your essay.
  • Slow down to avoid hasty generalization. Don't be in a rush to prove your point.
  • Compare the scale of your argument to the scale of your evidence.
  • Erase preconceptions to avoid hasty generalization. Present all the evidence you need, assuming nothing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hasty Generalization

A hasty generalization is reaching a generalized conclusion about something based on a small sample of evidence.

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


The underlined portion is a hasty generalization.

No.

A glittering generality is a form of propaganda. It is not a logical fallacy. A glittering generality is a slogan such as, "Believe In Change," which sounds positive and forward-moving but is devoid of content. 

They become unstated conclusions. They create harmful misconceptions, such as bigotry.

Be sure that your claim fits your evidence. If you make a big claim, be sure you have a lot of evidence.

Final Hasty Generalization Quiz

Question

"A logical fallacy indicates there might be an error in the logic."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. A fallacy is an error in logic.

Show question

Question

Can a hasty generalization occur in argument involving multiple parties?

Show answer

Answer

Yes.

Show question

Question

"All carpet is carpet."


Is this a hasty generalization?

Show answer

Answer

No. This is true by definition.

Show question

Question

"Dream. Move Forward. Trust." Is this a hasty generalization?

Show answer

Answer

No, this is a glittering generalization. 

Show question

Question

Are logical fallacies and propaganda synonymous? 

Show answer

Answer

No.

Show question

Question

The hasty generalization is a kind of _____.

Show answer

Answer

Jumping to conclusion

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Question

Which is another name for the hasty generalization?

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Answer

Faulty generalization

Show question

Question

Is "sweeping generalization" another term for hasty generalization?

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Answer

Yes.

Show question

Question

What is an "argument from small numbers"?

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Answer

The same as a hasty generalization.

Show question

Question

A hasty generalization is reaching a generalized _____ about a topic based on a small sample of evidence.

Show answer

Answer

Conclusion

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Question

If a conclusion is huge about topic Y, and there is some good evidence to indicate this about topic Y, is this a hasty generalization? 

Show answer

Answer

Yes. "Some" indicates too little evidence. You need more than "some" evidence to say something huge.

Show question

Question

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

Does this contain a hasty generalization?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, the second sentence is one.

Show question

Question

"To avoid a hasty generalization, move more swiftly through your evidence so as not to get bogged down in the illogic."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. You should slow down to avoid hasty generalization. Make sure all your evidence is straightened out, or a misstep could derail your essay.

Show question

Question

What is the "scale test" you can use to identify hasty generalization?

Show answer

Answer

Big claim = a lot of evidence, small claim = not much evidence.

Show question

Question

Erase _____ to avoid hasty generalizations.

Show answer

Answer

Preconceptions

Show question

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