"stolen keys fallacy"

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Michael, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    You know when someone looses something and they instantaneously jump to the conclusion "someone stole my_________". And then you say, no, no one stole you blah. They insist someone did. Then later they find what they were looking for. Then you mention "Oh, I thought someone stole them" and they just don't really recall this conversation.

    Could this be considered a formal fallacy? Any other fallacies out there like this one?


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    Michael II
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    The original claim of "someone stole my...." is a simple fallacy of leaping to a conclusion (the "leap" suggesting that one doesn't consider the logic underneath the claim).
    It is an informal fallacy of "hasty generalisation".

    The fallacy related to their subsequent forgetfulness might be considered "cherry-picking" - whereby they conveniently ignore certain examples and only choose those that support their case. But in this scenario there is just the single example, and they are probably not maintaining their claim that the item was stolen. So probably not applicable.
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  5. Rav Valued Senior Member

    "Someone stole my _______" is also an example of our tendency to assume that there is agency behind everything that happens, and it's more likely that we will jump to such conclusions when we have been around people we don't know or don't trust. It's a perfectly natural thing to do I think, although one hopes that we can also employ some rational principles of investigation in spite of it.
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  7. rrram2 Alpaca Farmer Registered Senior Member

    someone stole my ignorant mind, assuming that our mind is not playing tricks on us, as the reason we cannot find something is because we forgot where we put it, not because someone stole it. Also it is not impossible for your keys or whatever is missing to be moving around or being relocated by an outside force not human.
  8. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    What is that about? :shrug:
  9. Literphor I is for ignorance Registered Member

    Sounds like they just don't like to admit when they're wrong.

    But since I like to type it could also be..

    Delusions. "Someone stole my keys" doesn't hold the same meaning to the speaker as it does the listener. He/she may instead mean... "something happened to my keys and I don't know what" accompanied with the logical conclusion that for something like this to happen requires a third party's involvement. It doesn't necessarily mean it was the actions of some other individual, but an assertion the it wasn't themselves (if it was, then they should know where their keys are... people have a tendency to consider themselves infallible in this way).

    They don't actually believe someone stole their keys. If they did they wouldn't continue looking, they'd report it stolen. So why say it was stolen in the first place? Because the words he/she used have a different meaning to them as it does to the rest of us.

    So no...I didn't say someone stole my keys I said I didn't misplace them since I always put my keys on the counter right in that spot always. So how did they end up over here?? Someone/ghost/alien/etc must have moved it. Maybe there was strong gust of wind, earthquake or <Enter a weak but still plausible explanation>
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  10. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    An excellent response.

    p/s Good luck with those long words.

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  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    It's interesting you interpret it that way.

    I'd think that saying "Someone stole my keys!" as contextualized so far, is an example of paranoia that can develop when people interact with those they don't trust but whom they nevertheless interact with.
    Whole relationships and even marriages can be built on such shaky grounds.

    It seems that people are more prone to logical fallacies when they are under pressure, when they feel threatened, or when they are angry or hostile.

    E.g. you've probably heard such lines in domestic disputes:
    "You never tell me the truth!"
    "You spend all your time with your friends!"
    "Love me, or leave, but I am not going to discuss our relationship any longer!"
    "You are nothing but an idiot!"

    I think that in such situations, the thing to do is not to point out the logical fallacy, but to try to empathize with the person's distress and then talk about with them what actually worries them.

    In fact, I'd go so far as to say that as soon as a person commits a logical fallacy, the thing to do is to try to find the actual cause of their distress; or do nothing, if one's is not inclined to a heart-to-heart talk.
    But generally, in my experience, one of the worst things to do to a distressed person is to point out their logical fallacies - it just makes everything worse, and they are even more distressed.
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    That is fallacious on your part, given that you are speaking without evidence for your claim.

    I'd say this is typical for people in a bad relationship situation or who otherwise feel insecure, confused.
  13. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    Interesting responses

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    RE: Leaping to Conclusion Fallacy. This does seem to fit, but it seems rather general. I mean, it's like this fallacy could describe a number of others. Is there a specific definition other than generalizing from a small sample size? I can't recall the statistic used to determine sample size?... Grrrr....

    RE: Agency behind everything that happens. I'm not sure which fallacy this one is. But, little children naturally do, do this (or is that just 'do this'?). They easily attribute things to an unknown agent. There's possibly a survival advantage to this?

    For some reason it also reminds me of when someone hits their thumb with a hammer and then they look down at the hammer as if IT purposely hurt them - sometimes even swearing at the hammer and throwing it. I always get a good laugh when I see that sort of scenario play out.

    RE: Relationships and stress.
    This may be true as well. I mostly would witness this occurring back in University when we shared rooms. Lots of unknown people and lots of chances to misplace stuff because of hectic schedules (stress). Inevitably though, 99.99% of the time the item would turn up in a coat pocket or "Oh, yeah, I left that in my car".

    I suppose what's interesting is how people can't help but want to jump to the conclusion someone has stolen instead of jumping to the conclusion THEY left it somewhere. Recently someone I know misplaced (if you can believe this shit) 10 grand. Well, it's gone. I'm sure she was at least contemplating someone might have taken it, and joked a bit about it. Now we all think she had the money in an envelope, maybe the phone rang, she sat it on the table and then when back to packing to go overseas. She's only left the country a couple times (stress) and she forgot about it. Maybe her husband or granddaughter put it in the bin? Poor her (literally!) I actually had a nightmare about it and helped look all over her house. Her husband makes plenty of money and said don't worry about it, it'll turn up or not. She then shot him a look!

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    Anyway, so, I'm torn, it is Leaping to Conclusion Fallacy but this seems more applicable to sample size in an experiment. The agency.... I don't know but this feels sort of right, however most people attribute the agency to a person stealing from them. Agency usually means supernatural. Like the hammer scenario. Which brings us to relationships and stress, or being around unknown people, well now I'm so far from fallacy categories I'm not sure anymore - that's more psychology isn't it?

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    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  14. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I suppose that what you think about these fallacies depends on what you want in those situations or from those people with whom they comes up.

    Do you want to have a good, mutual relationship, or are you set to have things done your way.
    Do you want to prevail over the over person.
    Do you have a stake in being seen as "the reasonable one" at all times, by everyone.
    Do you want to maintain your own sense of mental correctness in all circumstances and against everyone, and why.
    Have you somehow participated in the thing gone, now feel guilty, but want to come across as innocent.
  15. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Generalising from a small sample size is another "hasty generalisation" - but it doesn't really apply here as there is no general rule being argued... just a specific case of "someone stole my X".
    Had the person claimed "Everything I have is being stolen by X" then I think this could qualify as a fallacy of "insufficient sample size", as well as others (such as leaping to a conclusion). But here there is just a specific case in question, not a general rule.

    The "leaping to a conclusion" is a common fallacy, but I tend to see it applicable only where someone jumps straight from the premise ("My keys are missing") to the conclusion ("Someone stole them!") without any logic in between.
    Had they supplied logic then perhaps that logic might be faulty and they might be guilty of different fallacies instead... (e.g. one of the sub-fallacies such as insufficient sample size).

    But if there is no (valid or otherwise) logic between the premise and the conclusion then I see this as a classic case of leaping to a conclusion... ignoring the need to set out a logical framework to support the conclusion.
    It's not to say the conclusion is necessarily wrong... they might actually be correct.

    The idea that the person themself can't be at fault is a matter of ego clouding their argument, and likely a fallacy of "Personal Incredulity"... a case of "I can't believe I have misplaced them... therefore it must be someone else's doing!"

    Or it may be an argument from consequence: "If I have misplaced them then I am at fault. I don't want to be at fault therefore I have not misplaced them!"

    Or likely a combination of the two.

    But these only relate to the conclusion that it is not they themself who have lost the keys, not to the conclusion that they must therefore have been stolen.

    One could stretch the "personal incredulity" to "If I can't find them then I can't believe that they have not been stolen!"... but this is rather stretching it, I think.
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Sarkus -

    Given what you have said so far, what would you actually say to a person IRL who exclaims "Someone stole my keys!" -?
  17. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    Um, actually, it was my house she was packing to come to visit (referring to the 10K)

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    But I certainly don't feel guilty. AND later we both returned to her country I told her husband I would help look around the house and did. I just asked and their kid told me not to mention it - she's trying to forget about it!

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    That's not really it though, I was just thinking about how people do that - you know, assume someone took their stuff.

    You know, I really appreciate this post. I liked reading it and it's exactly the sort of post we need more around here

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  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    For me, this seems rather simple. I would focus on the person's emotional expression at the time when they declare that someone stole their possessions; and I would also refer to my general knowledge of the person.

    I think that if the person in general seems to have unresolved basic existential doubts (as many people do), this is likely to show in examples of paranoia in their daily behavior.

    Watch some American soap operas (like The Bold and the Beautiful or Santa Barbara) - the characters there have many such paranoid behaviors. They are almost constantly uptight, on the lookout that someone hurt them or betrayed them, constantly suspicious, trying to cope with frustrations and uncertainty in often aggressive ways.
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Without knowing the precise context, probably something along the lines of "Why do you think that?" insomuch as it (a) helps me understand their premise and their thought process (or lack thereof) leading to their conclusion; and if they are jumping to conclusions it (b) hopefully starts them thinking about the situation (i.e. the absence of keys in expected location) in a more critical way, thus helping them identify (if such is the case) that they may be jumping to conclusions, without me possibly doing likewise in expressly accusing them of such.

    Afterall, it may be that the reason they think someone has stolen their keys is because they were holding the keys in their hands, had the keys ripped from them, and now see the guy running off down the street.

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