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Incomplete Evidence Fallacy

Updated May 28, 2023

The Incomplete Evidence Fallacy: When Judgment is Based on Incomplete Information


In the realm of logic and critical thinking, fallacies are errors in reasoning that can lead to flawed conclusions. One such fallacy that often goes unnoticed is the incomplete evidence fallacy. This fallacy occurs when individuals make judgments or draw conclusions based on insufficient or partial evidence, ignoring crucial information that might alter their perspective. In this article, we will delve into the concept of the incomplete evidence fallacy, explore its implications, and understand how to avoid falling into its trap.

Understanding the Incomplete Evidence Fallacy

The incomplete evidence fallacy, also known as the incomplete information fallacy, occurs when someone forms an opinion or makes a judgment based on incomplete evidence or a limited understanding of a situation. It involves overlooking important details or disregarding evidence that contradicts one's preconceived notions or beliefs. This fallacy often leads to flawed reasoning, biased decision-making, and the perpetuation of misinformation.

Examples of the Incomplete Evidence Fallacy

To better grasp the concept of the incomplete evidence fallacy, let's examine a few common scenarios where this fallacy might come into play:

1. Selective Data Interpretation

Imagine a study comparing the effectiveness of two medications for a particular condition. If someone only focuses on the positive results of one medication while ignoring or downplaying the negative outcomes, they are committing the incomplete evidence fallacy. By selectively interpreting the data, they are forming a skewed opinion that doesn't accurately represent the complete picture.

2. Cherry-Picking Supporting Evidence

In a heated debate about climate change, someone might present a handful of studies that support their belief that it is a natural phenomenon and ignore the overwhelming consensus among scientists. By cherry-picking specific studies while disregarding the vast body of evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change, they are falling victim to the incomplete evidence fallacy.

3. Anecdotal Generalizations

Another common instance of the incomplete evidence fallacy is when individuals make broad generalizations based on a single personal experience or a few isolated incidents. For instance, if someone had a negative encounter with a person from a particular cultural background and concluded that everyone from that background is inherently rude, they are drawing a conclusion based on incomplete evidence.

Avoiding the Incomplete Evidence Fallacy

Recognizing and avoiding the incomplete evidence fallacy is crucial for developing critical thinking skills and making well-informed decisions. Here are a few strategies to help steer clear of this fallacy:

1. Seek Diverse Perspectives

To ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of a subject, actively seek out various sources of information representing different viewpoints. By considering a range of perspectives, you reduce the risk of basing your judgments on incomplete evidence.

2. Scrutinize Sources

When evaluating evidence, be diligent in assessing the credibility and reliability of your sources. Look for reputable publications, scientific studies, and expert opinions. Be cautious of biased or unsubstantiated claims that may lead to incomplete conclusions.

3. Embrace Critical Thinking

Developing critical thinking skills is essential for avoiding fallacious reasoning. Analyze arguments, question assumptions, and challenge your own biases. By employing critical thinking techniques, you can identify gaps in evidence and avoid making judgments based on incomplete information.


The incomplete evidence fallacy is a subtle but significant error in reasoning that can hinder our ability to make sound judgments. By recognizing this fallacy and actively seeking complete information, we can avoid falling into its trap. Embracing critical thinking and considering diverse perspectives are essential for developing a well-rounded understanding of any subject. Let us remember that incomplete evidence can lead us astray, but a commitment to thorough analysis and open-mindedness will guide us towards more informed and rational decision-making.


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