Fallacies from Chapter 5 - 5469
To draw a generalization on the basis of a sample that's too small to be reliable.
First experience has X
Second experience has X
Thus, in general this type of experience has X
How to Explain
State that there are insufficient experiences to generalize.
The food at the coop is bad. I ate there once and the food was terrible.
1. Small sample involves drawing a generalization about something based upon a sample of experiences that is too small to be reliable. This is a very common fallacy that we have all committed at one time or another.
2. We need to use good judgment in determining when the sample size is large enough to generalize. One or two experiences are usually insufficient to form a sound generalization.
3. In some situations even just one experience may be sufficient. For example, after the first time you burn yourself while touching a hot stove then you don't need to touch the stove again to generalize that touching a hot stove will result in a burn.
4. If your first experience eating at a restaurant is a negative one then you may be wrong in generalizing that this restaurant is not for you, but you probably won't go back to it because there are so many other potentially good restaurants. If your first experience dating a new person is negative, are you going to go out on the second date? Probably not because there are many other people out there who could potentially be good dates. But remember, first impressions can sometimes be wrong. Think of a woman who meets a man, who is just the perfect gentleman in the beginning of a relationship, only to discover later to her dismay that he turns out to be an abusive person.
5. As mentioned on the previous page, small sample is similar to hasty conclusion. The difference is that small sample involves leaping to a generalization, while hasty conclusion involves leaping to a conclusion about a particular property of something. In some cases both hasty conclusion and small sample would apply depending on the interpretation of the wording of the conclusion. For example: Jerri has poor manners because I have observed this behavior on one or two occasions. It's a hasty conclusion because you're jumping to a conclusion about a particular property (poor manners) of Jerri. It's a small sample since your conclusion might be the generalization that Jerry always has poor manners. The difference in this example turns out to be merely semantic. Note that I will not include examples on the test which will force you to choose between hasty conclusion and small sample.
6. A small sample size is a problem with some polls. This will be discussed later on the section about polls.
7. Small sample on the Internet. After clicking the following link, scroll down to find this fallacy.
1. The food at the co-op is bad. I ate there once and the food was terrible.
Analysis: One experience is not enough to generalize about the co-op's food.
2. The first class meeting in critical thinking was boring. I can assume this is going to be a boring class.
Analysis: One experience is not enough to generalize about the class.
3. The first five class meeting in critical thinking was boring. I can assume this is going to be a boring class.
Analysis: No fallacy. Five experiences are a large enough sample to generalize about the class.
4. Parking is not a problem at SRJC during the week. My first two times I got a parking space right away.
Analysis: Two experiences are not enough to generalize about the parking situation. The person may have been just extremely lucky to find parking spaces right away.
5. Texas is a bad state. I went there once and found the people to be rude, the food lousy, and the weather awful.
Analysis: One experience in Texas is not enough to generalize about Texas.
6. I've gone out with three women in my life and they all rejected me. I can assume women will always reject me.
Analysis: Three bad experiences with women are probably not enough to generalize that women will always reject him. Now if it turns out to be five or more rejections then maybe he should start worrying.
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Last updated: 15:23 on 30 January 2013
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