Informal Fallacies as Cognitive Heuristics in Public Health Reasoning

Louise Cummings


The public must make assessments of a range of health-related issues. However, these assessments require scientific know-ledge which is often lacking or ineffectively utilized by the public. Lay people must use whatever cognitive resources are at their disposal to come to judgement on these issues. It will be contended that a group of arguments—so-called informal fallacies—are a valuable cognitive resource in this regard. These arguments serve as cognitive heuristics which facilitate reasoning when knowledge is limited or beyond the grasp of reasoners. The results of an investigation into the use of these arguments by the public are reported.


Argument from Authority; Argument from Ignorance; Cognitive Heuristic; Informal Fallacies; Public Health; Reasoning

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ISSN: 0824-2577