Accused of a fallacy? Suspect a fallacy? Ask Dr. Bo and the community!

Quickly register to comment, ask and respond to questions, and get FREE access to our passive online course on cognitive biases!

one moment please...

Fake Precision

(also known as: over-precision, false precision, misplaced precision, spurious accuracy)

Description: Using implausibly precise statistics to give the appearance of truth and certainty, or using a negligible difference in data to draw incorrect inferences.

Example #1:

Tour Guide: This fossil right here is 120,000,003 years old.

Guest: How do you know that?

Tour Guide: Because when I started working here three years ago, the experts did some radiometric dating and told me that it was 120,000,000 years old.

Explanation: Although more of a comedy skit than anything else, this demonstrates the fallacious reasoning by the tour guide in her assumption that the dates given to her were precise to the year.

Example #2:

The difference between first and second in many cases is negligible, statistically, yet we give those differences artificial meaning.  Who was the second person to walk on the moon... just minutes after Neil Armstrong?  Does anyone remember who the second fastest man in the world is, even though he might come in .01 seconds after the first place winner?

Explanation:  We often artificially assign significant meaning to tiny statistical differences.  It is a fallacy when we infer that the first place runner is “much faster” than the second place runner, even though the difference is .01 seconds.

Exception: In reality, tiny statistical differences can have a significant impact, regardless of our interpretation.  For example, jumping out of the way of a car .01 seconds too late can mean the difference between a close call, and death.

Tip: Don’t confuse fake precision with real performance.


Huff, D. (1993). How to Lie with Statistics (Reissue edition). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Registered User Comments

Become a Logical Fallacy Master. Choose Your Poison.

Logically Fallacious is one of the most comprehensive collections of logical fallacies with all original examples and easy to understand descriptions; perfect for educators, debaters, or anyone who wants to improve his or her reasoning skills.

Get the book, Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:

Not Much of a Reader? No Problem!

Enroll in the Mastering Logical Fallacies Online Course. Over 10 hours of video and interactive learning. Go beyond the book!

Enroll in the Fallacy-A-Day Passive Course. Sit back and learn fallacies the easy way—in just a few minutes per day, via e-mail delivery.

Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.

About Archieboy Holdings, LLC. Privacy Policy Other Books Written by Bo
 Website Design and Software Copyright 2017, Archieboy Holdings, LLC.