StrategyDriven Decision-Making Article | Decision-Making Warning Flag 1b - Weak Analogies

Decision-Making Warning Flag 1b – Weak Analogies

StrategyDriven Decision Making Article | Decision-Making Warning Flag 1b - Weak Analogies“The fallacy of Weak analogy is committed when a conclusion is based on an insufficient, poor, or inadequate analogy. The analogy offered as evidence is faulty because it is irrelevant; the claimed similarity is superficial or unrelated to the issue at stake in the argument. Or the analogy may be relevant to some extent yet overlooks or ignores significant dissimilarities between the analogs.”

Paul Leclerc
Community College of Rhode Island

Citizens have been asked to cast their vote for a referendum requiring those seeking to purchase a hammer to undergo a registration process similar to that for firearms. Supporters argue that because hammers, like guns, have metal parts and can be used to kill people that these tools should be legally controlled as guns are. These proponents are using a Weak Analogy to advance their position.

Weak analogies are used to support business decisions every day. As with all logic errors, decision-makers fall prey to the appearance of reasonableness, especially when the position supported justifies their desired course of action. Although difficult, recognizing and eliminating the use of Weak Analogies in decision-making is absolutely necessary.[wcm_restrict plans=”49457, 25542, 25653″]

Weak analogies occur when a decision-maker asserts greater similarity between two circumstances or entities than actually exists. In the hammer legislation example, supporters of the bill inappropriately correlate the similarities between hammers and firearms when arguing for greater hammer controls. Breaking down the hammer-firearm analogy reveals the correlation weakness:

  • A is like B: Hammers and firearms both have metal parts and can be used to kill people.
  • B has property P: Firearms are subject to rigorous legal controls and restrictions.
  • A has or should have property P because B does and A is like B: Hammers should be subject to the same legal controls and restrictions as guns.

The assertion that hammers and firearms are alike because they both have metal parts and can be used to kill people omits important differences between these two objects:

  • The fundamental purpose and use of a hammer is as a construction tool, cooking tool, or ceremonial tool whereas the fundamental purpose of a firearm is to cause or threaten to cause harm to people and animals or to damage physical objects.
  • Hammers are most frequently used for their primary purpose and result in far fewer deaths or harmful attacks on people and animals than do firearms.

These latter two characteristics are more material to the comparison of hammers and firearms in the context of legal controls. Considering the broader range of important hammer and gun characteristics reveals the Weak Analogy used by the hammer control advocates and invalidates their assertion.

Recognizing Weak Analogies

Logic errors are often difficult to recognize, Weak Analogies being no exception. Questions decision-makers should consider in order to avoid Weak Analogies include:

  • Was logic applied to support the desired decision option rather than independently identify the best option?
  • Has the decision’s logic been aggressively challenged, preferably by the team’s Devil’s Advocate or a disinterested third party?
  • When comparing circumstances or entities, were all characteristics of each identified and the material characteristics used to justify the correlation?
  • Were the characteristics of the compared circumstances or entities thoroughly assessed or the correlation naturally assumed?
  • Does the Devil’s Advocate or disinterested third party have the level of knowledge and experience necessary to assess analogies used in the decision-making process?

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[/wcm_nonmember]Additional Information

Additional insight to the warning signs, causes, and results of logic errors can be found in the StrategyDriven website feature: Decision-Making Warning Flag 1 – Logic Fallacies Introduction.

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