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Incomplete Relation Fallacy

Updated Feb 5, 2023

Understanding the Incomplete Relation Fallacy: A Common Logical Error

Have you ever come across an argument that seems convincing at first, but upon closer inspection, you realize that something important is missing? This phenomenon is known as the "incomplete relation fallacy," a logical error that can lead to flawed reasoning and misleading conclusions. In this article, we will delve into the concept of the incomplete relation fallacy, explore some common examples, and discuss how to avoid falling into this trap.

What is the Incomplete Relation Fallacy?

The incomplete relation fallacy occurs when someone draws a conclusion about the relationship between two variables based on incomplete or insufficient evidence. In other words, this fallacy assumes a cause-and-effect relationship between two factors without considering other variables that might be influencing the situation. It often involves oversimplification, cherry-picking data, or ignoring other relevant factors.

Examples of the Incomplete Relation Fallacy

To better understand the incomplete relation fallacy, let's examine a few examples:

Example 1: Correlation vs. Causation

Imagine a study that finds a strong correlation between ice cream sales and the number of shark attacks. Based solely on this correlation, one might conclude that ice cream consumption somehow attracts sharks. However, this conclusion neglects the fact that both ice cream sales and shark attacks are influenced by a common factor: warmer weather. In this case, the incomplete relation fallacy occurs by not considering the third variable, temperature.

Example 2: Selective Evidence

Suppose a company claims that their new product is responsible for a substantial increase in customer satisfaction. They present positive feedback from a selected group of customers who enjoyed the product. However, this claim overlooks feedback from dissatisfied customers or those who experienced negative side effects. By selectively presenting only positive evidence, the company commits the incomplete relation fallacy.

Avoiding the Incomplete Relation Fallacy

Recognizing and avoiding the incomplete relation fallacy is crucial for critical thinking and rational decision-making. Here are a few strategies to help you steer clear of this logical error:

1. Consider alternative explanations

When faced with a conclusion or argument, always question whether other factors could be at play. Are there any omitted variables that might influence the observed relationship? By considering alternative explanations, you can avoid oversimplification and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation.

2. Look for counterexamples

Instead of solely focusing on evidence that supports a particular claim, actively seek out counterexamples or contradictory evidence. Examining the complete picture will provide a more accurate assessment of the situation, helping you avoid falling into the trap of the incomplete relation fallacy.

3. Gather diverse perspectives

Engage in discussions with individuals who hold different viewpoints or have varying expertise. This will expose you to alternative interpretations and prevent you from relying solely on limited perspectives. A diverse range of perspectives can help you identify any incomplete relations and enhance your decision-making process.


The incomplete relation fallacy is a logical error that can mislead us into drawing incorrect conclusions. By understanding the concept and being aware of its presence, we can avoid falling into this trap. Remember to consider alternative explanations, look for counterexamples, and gather diverse perspectives to ensure a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of any given situation. By doing so, we can improve our critical thinking skills and make better-informed decisions.


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