Basically, if X is popular it must be good or correct (or if X is unpopular, it's wrong).
"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible." Bertrand RussellThis is Part 15 in a series about Logical Fallacies. Please comment or email if there’s a particular fallacy you want me to tackle, or if you have success with refuting an argument using a good technique you can share.
This fallacy is used to try to convince someone that a popular idea is true.
- There are over 2.2 billion Christians in the world, so Christianity is the true religion.
- All of my friends are doing it.
- That film made more money than any other so it must be the best ever made.
It's also used to try to convince someone that an unpopular idea is false.
- That candidate is unpopular so his ideas are wrong.
- No one went to see that movie so it must be awful.
One of the most common usages is in advertising.
- Everyone loves Coke so you should buy Coke too.
- Everyone watches this show so you have to as well.
- I found this on Discovery Health yesterday, regarding electric toothbrushes: They clean your teeth more thoroughly: (yadda yadda, AMA and BDJ both think they're superior). "But don't just listen to the sages at dental journals. Regular folks are big electric toothbrush fans, too. In a survey of 16,000 patients published by the American Dental Association, more than 80 percent said they improved their oral cleanliness after switching from their manual toothbrushes to an electric version [source: Electric Toothbrush Reviews]. It's hard to argue with that!"
First, it starts off with what experts say. But then it says not to bother with that but to listen to all the people on the bandwagon! Millions of people eat McDonald's every day, but they aren't "right" to do so. It's still not a healthy food choice.
In this case, the evidence is definitely in favor of electric toothbrushes. That should be all Discovery needs to say on the issue, but apparently the writer felt that the Appeal to the People was a more convincing argument. That's pathetic! Not to mention, the reviews are self-reported, which is anecdotal evidence, which can be notoriously unreliable in most instances.
- Religious people commit this fallacy when they state how many adherents their faith has around the world, as if that means anything.
It's important to note that sometimes the majority is correct (as in the survey on electric toothbrushes), but that is poor reasoning. Instead, you need to study the claim and come to a reasoned conclusion based on evidence.
Refuting the Bandwagon Fallacy
In my experience the best way to refute this fallacy is to explain it. Define the error in logic, then ask for real evidence that the claim is sound. Have any good studies been done regarding the issue? What is the consensus of experts in the field?