#01 Hasty Generalization

By Neel Anil Panicker

Valentine’s Day is one big marketing scam orchestrated by money chasing marketers.

Or, I know of a teenaged couple who was harassed last year during Valentine’s. I myself suffered the same. I believe Valentine’s Day should be renamed as Harassment Day because that’s what it has come down to.

Two different statements, two different situations, and unfortunately two flawed conclusions.

These two instances are classic cases of the kind of hasty generalizations we make.

And we make them almost every single hour of our lives. And we make them of people, of places, of things, even of emotions.

For instance, take my friend Amit Kumar. He believes all  South Indians are kind and well mannered people. Now how did he arrive at this. Well, my good friend, who incidentally hails from Bareilly, a small town in Uttar Pradesh secured admission into the premier NIT and was offered to take his four year engineering course in Kozhikode, a beautiful average sized Indian town in the Malabar belt of Kerala.

Now, despite not knowing one word of the local language Malayalam he says he had a great experience and received the love and friendship of the Malayalis, be they his classmates or local shopkeepers, auto drivers et al.

In fact so moved was he by the red carpet welcome and honour that was rolled out to  a rank outsider like him and having partaked of the generosity and benevolence of Keralites, my friend turned emotional while on his last day of college and stay there and grandly announced to the whole world and its daddy that “South Indians are the most kind hearted and cultured people in the entire world”.

Now, sentiments aside, I wondered whether what my good friend has said was true or had he said something in the thick of the moment, overwhelmed as he was by his beautiful experience.

It so dawned on me that he had said of Malayalis and South Indians was a flawed conclusion.

A conclusion that may or may not be correct in the absence of more, better, and concrete verifiable data.

As goes the idiom “One sparrow does not a summer make”.

In the world of logic, more specifically Inductive Reasoning we have a name for this kind of flaw.

It’s called the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization.

Let me define it for you.

It’s “making assumptions about a whole group or range of cases based on a sample that is inadequate (usually because it is atypical or too small).

Making assumptions that are inadequate. About whom? About a whole group or range of cases based on a sample.

Or, how well we go about making them. We meet someone from another group or region or place or religion or region and find him so and so… you can fill that with rude, dishonest, shy, aggressive, insincere, drunkard… and thence draw a conclusion that the class or category or region or religion that they belong to or hail from is also like them.

How very faulty and wrong of us to think so.

So, how do we overcome this and ensure that we don’t fall into such traps and pass sweeping judgements about things and people we are not fully aware of.

Simple, just ask yourself what kind of “sample” you’re using: Are you relying on the opinions or experiences of just a few people, or your own experience in just a few situations? If so, consider whether you need more evidence, or perhaps a less sweeping conclusion.


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