Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Logical Fallacy For the Rugged Individual In You

I find it fairly safe to assume that considering the individualist nature of America, that nearly all of my own peers would consider themselves individuals, as opposed to parts of a larger whole, which makes this fallacy all the more common in this population, as opposed to more collectivist societies.

The Fallacy of Rugged Individualism, also referred to as the Appeal to the Select Few, has a rather simple basis.  It is used, often in advertisement to show that an "individual" would choose something that isn't as popular, such as a potential claim that Doc 360 is a soda for people who are "rugged individuals."  Another interesting note is that it can appeal to people who consider themselves more rational than the other members of the population, and can enjoy Doc 360, rather than Dr. Pepper, like the less rational average person.

Another name for the use of this fallacy in advertising is "Snob Appeal."  In a sense, the idea of using your "inner snob" to sell goods pushes this.  For many people, the idea of "standing out from the crowd" or otherwise being distinguished is very enticing.  But the failure to prove the potential of a good to stand out in ways other than being not often purchased is prevalent, and yet the advertising is still functional for our "rugged individuals."

While I find the advertisements to be somewhat laughable in terms of its importance to my own life, this fallacy can be a cause of some more concerning issues.  Take, for example, the scientific community.  This group (generally) spends painstaking hours to prove their theories and ideas.  However, an extreme case of this fallacy would encourage a denial of this "popular opinion" coming out of the scientific community.  Out of this, you can find movements like those who believe in a "Flat Earth," or deniers of any number of strongly evidenced scientific theories on which many things in our world are built.

This fallacy can be central to what people believe, as reflected in the second-option bias, which is a belief that whatever opinion is counter to the public opinion must be the one that is correct.  This is especially obvious in Holocaust deniers and other such conspiracy theorists who consider average people to be "sheep" that follow the popular herd.  This side of the fallacy comes at a cost, as movements of this sort can pick up speed, and there is something about wild ideas that tends to make them difficult to remove from people, regardless of use of proper logic and evidence.

I would ask that the next time someone asks you to "stray from the herd" to take some time to look objectively at what it may appeal to, and whether it is really your "rugged individualism," or if it is perhaps something a bit less unassuming than your taste in soda.



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