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What Is a Bandwagon Fallacy?

A bandwagon fallacy is based on the appeal to popular belief and behavior rather than logical and valid points.
Making the argument that a television show is good because of its number of viewers is an example of a fallacious bandwagon argument.
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  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
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A bandwagon fallacy is a type of argumentative fallacy that is based on an appeal to popular belief and behavior, not on valid and logical points. An argument based on this fallacy usually bears a format similar to "everyone else believes this, so it must be true" or "everyone else does this, so it must be right." Stating that a television show is good because it has many viewers, for instance, is an example of a fallacious bandwagon argument because high viewership is not necessarily a mark of quality in and of itself. This form of argumentative fallacy can be used in many contrary situations, such as arguing that a popular claim is true or that an unpopular claim is false.

There is nothing inherently fallacious or wrong in stating that many people believe a certain proposition or act in a certain way, so long as there is truth to the statement. Such a claim becomes a logical fallacy when it is used as support for an argument. When one says "A must be true, because more people believe A than not A," one uses a bandwagon fallacy. There is nothing inherent in the beliefs of many people that can make a proposition true. When one is convinced by a bandwagon fallacy, he chooses to subordinate his own ability to think logically and examine facts to the abilities of an undefined mass of others who supposedly believe in a certain way.

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While it is rare for this fallacy to be used in a formal debate, such arguments are still used in many settings, including informal arguments and marketing campaigns. Claiming that "everyone knows this is true" or "nobody believes that actually happened" saves one from actually providing evidence and support for a claim, at least if no one else involved in the argument demands further evidence. A bandwagon fallacy can be effective because it suggests that, by defying the claim, one is defying the beliefs of "everyone" or of the vast majority of people. Many people are afraid that they will seem unintelligent if they challenge a belief that is supposedly held by most people.

Marketing and advertising often make extensive use of the bandwagon fallacy. Claiming that a certain brand of a product is the "most popular" or that a certain television show is the "most viewed" is a common advertising method. People who see this use of the bandwagon fallacy may feel that, because something is popular, it is good and they will not need to conduct any more research about the product or service.

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bythewell
Post 3

@irontoenail - I disagree. Objective quality has nothing to do with popularity. You can argue that reality TV is popular and is therefore successful and is therefore quality TV, but when you do that, you're measuring that show by a completely different yardstick than I want to measure it with. It's like arguing with me that because soda is popular it must be good for you.

Soda being popular only proves that it's good at being popular, it doesn't mean it has any other virtues.

irontoenail
Post 2

@umbra21 - Those kinds of fallacies in arguments can have some worth though. They aren't a completely definitive argument on quality, obviously, but crowd sourcing opinion is considered a fairly respectable way of finding an opinion these days.

If someone does a decent poll, and finds out that a significant proportion of people prefer a particular brand, I'd say it's more likely that that brand is a better quality. People aren't that dumb. You can try and argue with this by saying something like, lots of people like reality TV and it has no quality. Well, sure, but it obviously is the best at gaining attention and that's the aim of TV programs.

umbra21
Post 1

Don't forget that if all you are doing is claiming that something is popular, rather than "good" you are perfectly entitled to back that up with statistics on how many people watch it.

You might still be contributing to bandwagon fallacy, but to some extent I think that's on the person who is listening to you.

There is a ton of bandwagon fallacy advertisement out there and people need to learn not to take it as more than face value. Just think of how many companies end their TV ads by saying something like "the brand preferred by more people than any other brand". You need to bear in mind that that only says something about their advertising, not about their quality. They might be most popular because they are the cheapest. They might be the most popular because they have a monopoly. You just don't know.

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