Fallacies in Advertising
According to Bassham et al. (2002), a logical fallacy is “an argument that contains a mistake in reasoning” (p. 140). There are two types of logical fallacies, fallacies of relevance, and fallacies of insufficient evidence. Fallacies of relevance happen when the premises are not logically relevant to the conclusion. Fallacies of insufficient evidence occur when the premises do not provide sufficient evidence to support the conclusion. Though there are several logical fallacies, four logical fallacies commonly found in advertising are amphiboly, appeal to authority, appeal to emotion, and non sequitur.
An amphiboly is “a fallacy of syntactical ambiguity deliberately misusing implications” (Master List, p. 1). This occurs when the arguer misinterprets a statement that is grammatically ambiguous, and then proceeds to draw a conclusion based on this false interpretation. An example of an amphiboly is if someone said, “I shot the burglar in my pajamas.” One could interpret this sentence to mean that the burglar was wearing the pajamas when he was shot, while the real meaning is that the shooter was wearing pajamas when he shot the burglar. The commercial for the Sonicare Elite is a perfect example of an amphiboly used in advertising. The speaker in the commercial says, “Sonicare is professionally used by more US dental professionals than any other electric toothbrush brand” (www.optiva.com). This statement leads people to believe that the Sonicare is used by the majority of all dentists, when, in reality, the Sonicare is only used by the majority of dentists that Optiva surveyed.
Another fallacy seen all the time in advertising is appeal to authority. “Appeal to authority is committed when an arguer cites a witness or an authority who, there is good reason to believe, is unreliable” (Bassham et al., 2002, p. 162). Donald Trump endorses McDonalds, while Shaq endorses Burger King. Sure Donald Trump may be an expert in business, and Shaq...
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