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Dictionary

Ecological fallacy

LIAM O'DOWD

A fallacy is an error of logic usually based on mistaken assumptions. The ecological fallacy is an error of deduction that involves deriving conclusions about individuals solely on the basis of an analysis of group data. For example, a study of the drinking habits of students in two universities, A and B, might find that students in A consumed far more units of alcohol than in B. On meeting an individual university student from A, the ‘heavy drinking’ university, however, we should not automatically expect that he or she is a heavy drinker. It may be that many of the students in A are in fact teetotal but that this abstinence is compensated for by extremely high levels of alcohol consumption among other students. Another example is the ‘hung’ jury. We cannot deduce, because a jury cannot reach a verdict, that each of its individual members is undecided. In fact, ...

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