13: Appeals to Emotion

Informal Fallacies

Key Terms

Modus Ponens
Modus Tollens
Disjunctive Syllogism
Reduction Fallacy
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
False Dilemma
Straw Man
Special Pleading
Slippery Slope
Weasel Words
Meaningless Jargon
Argument from Authority
Argument from Tradition
Ad Hominem Attack
Appeals to Emotion (Pity/Fear/Flattery)

  • Not logical
  • Pseudo-reasoning (false reasoning)
  • Unsound arguments

Fallacies of Relevance

  • Deny, confuse, or falsify an argument by focusing on the origin of an argument
  • Appeal to opinions outside of oneself rather than critical thinking or analysis
  • Five types:
    • Appeal to Authority
    • Appeal to Tradition
    • Bandwagoning
    • Ad Hominem Attacks
    • Appeals to Emotion (including Pity, Fear, and Flattery)

Appeal to Pity

  • Attempt to win support through sympathy
  • Exploits target's feelings of pity or guilt


  • If you don’t give me an A, I’ll lose my scholarship.
  • I really need this job because my grandmother is sick.

Appeal to Fear

  • Attempt to win support by increasing fear in the target
  • Can provide misinformation or exploit prejudice
  • Popular in marketing and politics


  • If you don’t support my plan, the enemy will win.
  • If you tell a lie, no one will ever believe you again.

Appeal to Flattery

  • Attempt to win support through excessive compliments
  • Exploits target's vanity through praise
  • The Office Suck-Up uses the appeal to flattery technique


  • Surely someone as smart as you can see the merits of my argument.
  • That was a brilliant lecture, and I’m excited to do some additional reading on it. By the way, could I get an extension on my paper deadline?


  • Do not speak to the content of the argument
  • Reduces the argument such that it is not based on relevant facts and reason
  • Distracts from the important issues at hand
  • Causes the target to be in a state of emotional duress making him or her less likely to judge dispassionately