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...

Oversimplified Cause Fallacy

Description: When a contributing factor is assumed to be the cause, or when a complex array of causal factors is reduced to a single cause. It is a form of simplistic thinking that implies something is either a cause, or it is not. It overlooks the important fact that, especially when referring to human behavior, causes are very complex and multi-dimensional.

Logical Form:

X is a contributing factor to Y.
X and Y are present.
Therefore, to remove Y, remove X.

Example #1:

P1. Lead poisoning can contribute to violent behavior.

P2. Many inner city children have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.
C. Therefore, violent crime in the inner city can be solved by curing the lead problem.

Explanation: We already established that lead poisoning can contribute to violent behavior (note the probabilistic language). This means that there is some unspecified chance. We are taking an unreasonable leap in suggesting that violent crime can be solved (binary language) by curing the lead problem. And, in case you missed it, there is question begging here in assuming that violent behavior leads to violent crime.

Example #2:

P1. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity.
P2. People have become more sedentary in the last few decades.
C. Therefore, the rise in obesity can be fixed by people getting more exercise.

Explanation: We made the leap from "contributes" to "can be fixed." At best, we can conclude that the problem of obesity can be mitigated by people getting more exercise.

Example #3:

P1. Smoking has been empirically proven to cause lung cancer.
C. Therefore, if we eradicate smoking, we will eradicate lung cancer.

Explanation: Even though it is reasonable to consider smoking a "cause" of lung cancer versus a "contributing factor" to lung cancer, assuming it is the only cause is fallacious.

Tip: Establishing causality is extremely tricky. Unless you are stating an established fact, start using more probabilistic language such as "contributes to," "leads to," "has been known to reduce the effects of," or similar language.


Hurley, P. J. (2011). A Concise Introduction to Logic. Cengage Learning.

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
 Copyright 2017, Archieboy Holdings, LLC.