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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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boniaditya

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boniaditya


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Sun, Sep 29, 2019 - 07:15 AM

Asking extremely basic questions to win arguments - Name the bias or the fallacy at play

Recently I went to a product manager interview.

They asked a few questions, for which I gave the answers. But eventually, one interviewer asked extremely trivial questions i.e. the first year of graduation questions - How does the wifi router work? How does DNS work? How does internet work? These questions are so generic, trivial and basic but at the same time, nobody can remember everything. These questions do not require you to use your logic either. It is a simple memory-based question. But since I wrote the answers to these questions over 10 years ago, it is impossible for me to remember them. I understood the bias at play here, but I could not give a name to it. There might be multiple fallacies or biases at play here. Can you please help me pin point them?



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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Sun, Sep 29, 2019 - 08:06 AM
We can say the implied argument goes as follows:

1. Qualified applicants know X.
2. You do not know X.
3. Therefore, you are not a qualified applicant.

Your claim is that premise #1 is not true. This might be the case, or it might not. This reminds me of the famous anecdote of Henry Ford who was given a hard time about his lack of schooling and general knowledge. To one lawyer he responded,

If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?

Today, we can substitute "a row of electric push-buttons" with "Google."
Bo Bennett, PhD
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William Harpine, Ph.D.

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William Harpine, Ph.D.


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Print Mon, Sep 30, 2019 - 12:21 AM
I don't see a fallacy, just a difference of opinion between you and the interviewer.

Note that hiring managers operate by the golden rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules. If the manager thinks these questions are important, that becomes his/her call to make.


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boniaditya
Sunday, September 29, 2019 - 06:05:53 PM
Thank you very much for the prompt response.

I am happy that you have given me the answer. Yes, I have read this about Herny Ford, in fact, I read this in a book - Napoleon Hills Think and Grow Rich - is the book from which I read this anecdote.

http://www.successlearned.com/napoleon-hill-think-grow-rich/files/basic-html/page64.html

I would like to call it the Henry Ford Fallacy! or the General Knowledge Fallacy

But, I want to pinpoint various fallacies that are at play here. For example, one fallacy that I can see clearly is to use the memory of trivial things or the lack thereof to demean a person or his credentials.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Monday, September 30, 2019 - 05:41:30 AM
We need to be careful when calling something a fallacy. I tend to be very conservative in that respect. First and foremost, it needs to be an error in reasoning. We should be able to clearly say that the person is not reasoning well. In the example you provide, I could not say that. Employers know their jobs better than I/we do and can be presumed to know what makes a good employee. If they feel that the immediate recall of basic information is correlated to job performance, then it might be the case... or it might not, but we cannot assume that it is not and call it a fallacy.

If I were you, I would simply ask the employer if instant recall to this kind of information that it easily accessible by Google is correlated with job performance versus the ability to use the Internet to answer almost any question in seconds. This is a good question that would make you look smart :) As a scientist, I would also ask how do they know, but as a prospective employee I wouldn't because that is a bit too confrontational.

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boniaditya
Monday, September 30, 2019 - 07:37:14 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: So this might not be a fallacy, but could it be a bias? Bias for general knowledge as opposed to specialized knowledge? I just want to know about the biases that come closest to this kind of reasoning. Which makes it easy to understand and connect with previous versions of the same bias, or the future scenarios where the same bias would come into action. Akin to the anecdote about Henry Ford cited, the bias would be easier to set a precedent. I am fairly certain that tons of people must have faced this bias and one of them might have given it a name.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Monday, September 30, 2019 - 08:15:22 AM
@boniaditya: I am not convinced a bias is at play here. At the very least, the notion that one's instant access to general knowledge in a related field correlates to how well they might do in that field is a decent heuristic. In this sense, it is not general vs. specific; it is that general is a decent indicator of specific.

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boniaditya
Monday, September 30, 2019 - 09:40:22 AM
@Bo Bennett, Ph.D.: Hi, I believe that a single fallacy cannot be attributed to a single event in real life. Usually, one event has multitudes of biases, fallacies involved in it. Combinations of biases, fallacies by another other names, might give rise to one situation. Please go through my analysis of various biases involved in a cricket match demagoguery - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dhoni-effect-victim-plethora-biases-boni-aditya/. Also, I believe that there is a hint of "argument by tradition" involved in this context i.e. asking the same questions because it is a tradition to ask them, as opposed to asking questions relevant to the times - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_tradition

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boniaditya
Friday, October 04, 2019 - 07:27:50 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Hi, I dug deeper and found a few related fallacies
1. Appeal to Tradition
2. The Illusory Correlation
3. Appeal to Elitism or Snobbish version of Argumentum Ad Populum

I have written an article about the same, please let me know if these fallacies/biases can directly or indirectly cause the Henry Ford Interview Situation!

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/henry-ford-fallacy-general-knowledge-interview-questions-boni-aditya

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Saturday, October 05, 2019 - 06:10:00 AM
@boniaditya: I appreciate your persistence here, but you are asking the wrong question. The right question is "Is general knowledge a good indicator of success?" or something similar. As much as some despise them, IQ tests are excellent indicators of academic and life success. By extension, it makes sense that general knowledge in a field (tech) could also be a good indicator of success in that field. I don't know if this is the case, but it is likely to be the case that experienced HR departments (especially ones led by people with social science backgrounds) have demonstrated a correlation, thus the general questions are justified and work well. It MIGHT be the case that the have bad reasons for asking them (i.e., fallacious reasons such as the ones you list) but assuming this is just as problematic. One should never assume fallacious reasoning, especially if one does not have access to the reasoning process used.

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boniaditya
Saturday, October 05, 2019 - 02:17:07 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: I agree, I don't have the right to assume fallacious reasoning or foul play without access to the faulty reasoning behind the interviewer, i.e. without actually conducting experiments, statistical surveys of these interviewers, to conclusively confirm the errors in reasoning beyond the alpha error rate. But, but both of us come from two different worlds, so I understand why it is difficult for you to suspect foul play in interviews. In India, it is a norm rather than the exception, while it might be rare to see biases in interviews. All that being said and done, if I were to propose these faults in reasoning to another India, he would readily acknowledge the existence of such biases, but a German, Swede, or an American won't be ready to accept it. There was a PISA study - Programme for International Student Assessment - India ranked 53 out of the 54 countries that participated. India responded by refusing to participate in these rankings going ahead. Products that come out of such dismal education structure, imagine millions of incompetent engineers produced every year, only 5% of whom are employable, and now try to visualize the interview processes used by the interviewers to weed out incompetents, and try to imagine how biases those might be, only geared to remove the junk with maximum efficiency. Anyway, it is easier for me to show it to you, instead of asking you to imagine - Please watch this video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGAzkM_sf3I may be this one too https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D-0_RbKlO8

With all that being said, here is what I think, the best way to get educated is to hire all the teachers' time to teach one on one to you, but given that only multi-millionaires, could afford it. We only use the school system, to exploit the economies of scale, though nobody is sure that it is the perfect system to get education, we tolerate this social evil of schooling. I think this is a similar format, to try to understand every candidate would take infinite time, and infinite resources, though it is the best way to judge a candidate. But since, a job gets hundreds of thousands of applications in India, to minimize the costs, they employ these generic techiques, which weed out candidates quickly and efficiently thus saving tons of money, economies of scale again. Though biased and flawed, these methods, save tons of money for the hiring institute. But, I firmly believe that the hiring process is done by people and anything done manually is subject to biases and fallacies, often a mixture of them, giving a deadly blow! But, I concur with you, this process isn't scientific, but I can justify this from my experiences of sitting on both sides of the hiring desk. It is perfectly biased!

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boniaditya
Monday, September 30, 2019 - 03:08:38 AM
@William Harpine, Ph.D.: Thank you for the response. Unfortunately, the world does not operate according to the GOLDEN RULES anymore. Whoever has the gold do not make the rules! Those days are long gone. Let me give you an example - https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Reviews/Ness-Technologies-Reviews-E13463.htm

I got an interview call from Ness Technologies a few days ago - Before going to the interview, I decided to do a quick background check and I found out that they are extremely unprofessional both with their interviews and with treating people after they are hired. Also, I found a list of stupid interview questions that the HRs ask to entertain themselves. The board is filled with 100+ reviews, asking me to keep away from the company. So these so-called Golden Rules - will start popping up all over the internet. Glassdoor is just one of the 15 different sites including Google Maps which you can use to understand the Hiring process and you get to decide if attending an interview with a company is worth your time. I just sent the link to the glass door reviews to the recruiter and told him that I am not interested anymore. The Golden rule is that I also hold gold with me, i.e. my time and my skills which were developed by 20+ years of hard work, developed by investing 8 hours a day. Skills that include - Communications, Digitial Technologies, Typing, Speaking, Research, Analytics to name a few. So assuming that only the interviewer holds the gold is old school. Any which way, forget about the difference of opinion. Let us assume that the interviewer isn't doing this deliberately, he honestly assumes that a specialist must have generic knowledge about everything related to his field - Can you give me a bias/fallacy at play here or a bunch of biases that are at play here. I am not really concerned about judging the interviewer or his policies, after saying all of this, I still defend his right to ask such questions in an interview. But, at the same time, I would like to know about the possible biases - I am more interested in the names of biases/fallacies - Please check out this article for example - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dhoni-effect-victim-plethora-biases-boni-aditya/

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