Ecological Fallacy: Definition & Example

Ecological Fallacy: Definition & Example
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  • 0:02 Logic
  • 1:53 Fallacies
  • 2:42 Examples
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Krcatovich

Erin teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in Political Science, Public Policy, and Public Administration and has a PhD in Political Science.

This lesson discusses the concept of an ecological fallacy within the context of understanding how logical arguments are structured. We will learn about the concept and then discuss an example of an ecological fallacy.

Logic

Logic is used to create a strong argument in which the conclusion follows from the premises presented. A sound, logical argument is one that contains a premise, or statement of fact, that is the basis for the argument to be made, and one or more conclusions, or results, that can be logically drawn from that premise. It must contain a series of related steps that draw the listener along from point to point, so that they come to agree with the conclusion that is reached. For example, a classical logical argument is as follows:

  1. All men are mortal.
  2. Socrates is a man.
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

In this example, the first two statements are both premises. You can prove or disprove that all men are mortal. Ask yourself: can anyone live forever? If not, then all men are mortal. You can also prove or disprove that Socrates is a man. Ask yourself if it possible to determine if Socrates is a man or a woman. If so, then it can be proven that Socrates is a man.

From both premises, you can reach the conclusion given in the third statement. In other words, if all men are mortal, and if Socrates is a man, then you must logically conclude that Socrates is mortal.

You may have seen a model like this in mathematics, written like this: If A = B, and B = C, then A = C. Here A must be equal to C because both A and B are equal to C. This is the same idea.

Fallacies

When a conclusion is drawn incorrectly, it is possible that there is a logical fallacy. An ecological fallacy is a type of logical fallacy in which a person draws a conclusion about a single member of a group by looking at the average for that group. For example, if the average height for women is 5 feet 2 inches, you cannot use that fact to then assume someone is not a woman because her height is 6 foot 1 inch. Averages are just that; they reflect the statistical similarities among members of the group. Some people are at the extremes of a group, and therefore, very different from the average, which makes it erroneous to assume that all members are represented by the average.

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