The distinction between logical fallacies and cognitive biases –
through Terry Heik
What are logical fallacies and cognitive biases?
In short, logical fallacies and cognitive distortions are both failures of reason — errors in reasoning that can lead to inaccurate perspectives, distorted views, flawed judgments, and ultimately distorted, irrational beliefs (about oneself and/or the world around them).
Because the human brain is prone to the same kinds of errors and biases, it (meaning “we” as humans) makes the same mistakes so frequently that we’ve given them formal names (e.g.,
In this way, they are similar in that each is a common misconception.
The difference between logical fallacies and cognitive biases
The key difference between logical fallacies and cognitive biases is that the former are errors of reasoning that usually occur in the moment, while the biases represent individual, persistent predispositions to future errors of reasoning.
An important difference between fallacy and prejudice is that bias determines/affects/distorts how you continually evaluate data, truth, or circumstances. However, logical fallacies have more to do with how you make claims and construct arguments.
An example of a logical fallacy
in the What is confirmation biasI said, “One of many cognitive biasWhether based on fear (e.g., “I’m going to lose my job”) or inaccurate and/or incomplete data (e.g., a stereotype), someone who is a victim of confirmation bias will form an opinion and then seek and/or overstate data that supports that opinion. In the previous example of losing your job, because of the worry of losing your job, you would start to ‘notice’ things that seemed to support that theory.”
For example, the common ad hominem fallacy occurs when one challenges the validity of a judgment or claim by challenging the holder of that claim rather than the claim itself.
Person A: A politician said we should invest more money in education.
Person B: I don’t like this politician. He lies about everything and has a history of bad ideas.
While both the politician and person B may be (more or less) correct in their claims here (that we should invest more money in education and the politician in question actually has a history of bad ideas), person B attacks the person instead of the Claim to criticize yourself intellectually. Classic ad hominem.
An example of recency bias
However, a person prone to recency bias will prefer current events and dates to the fuller picture of reality or truth. This bias will cause the person to overemphasize some data and completely overlook other data—thus committing more errors and likely developing more cognitive biases and associated worldview distortions.
The definition of a logical fallacy
A logical fallacy is a fallacy. It occurs when someone draws a conclusion that doesn’t follow from the evidence, or when someone relies on an incorrect assumption. There are many different types of logical fallacy, but they all have one common effect: tricking people into believing that the conclusion is valid.
The definition of a cognitive bias
A cognitive bias is a type of thinking error that leads to systematically distorted judgments and decisions. This can lead to inaccurate beliefs about people, situations, and the world in general. Cognitive biases are often studied in psychology because they can affect the way people think, feel, and behave.
Types of logical fallacies
There are many dozens of logical fallacies – a few examples are straw man, false dilemma, ad hominem, slippery slope, false dichotomy, and the errant error.
Types of cognitive distortions
There are also many dozens of cognitive biases—some examples include sunk cost fallacy, confirmation bias, gambler’s fallacy, and anchoring bias.