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Think about the last time you listened to someone talk who was really angry. Whether they were venting to you or they were speaking to a crowd, I’m willing to bet that they sounded very convinced that their opinion or feelings represented some kind of truth.
I’m also willing to bet that they were trying to stir up some emotion inside of you, too, so you could empathize with them–and, if necessary, change your opinion to match their argument.
This faulty logic is called an appeal to anger, and it’s a logical fallacy used as a tactic to play on people’s emotions to get them to act or think in a certain way. In this article, we will look more at the definition of the appeal to anger fallacy and then review five examples of this logical fallacy that you may come across throughout life.
Let’s get started by defining this concept a bit further.
What You Will Learn
What Is the Appeal to Anger Fallacy?
The appeal to anger fallacy occurs when someone strategically arouses anger in their listeners to influence their behavior or thought processes in some way. This logical fallacy is used to distract from the lack of factual evidence by turning people’s attention toward their emotions and away from their sense of logic.
And, because people’s decisions are strongly influenced by their emotions, making people feel a certain way is an effective tool for making them act in a certain way as well.
While an appeal to anger may work as a rhetorical device, it’s typically considered to be a deceptive method of trying to win an argument, as it focuses on listeners’ pre-existing biases instead of facts.
This logical fallacy takes the following form:
Person A claims that X is true.
Person A is angry.
Therefore, X must be true.
Replacing a logical argument with feelings of anger is an effective and common trick, but it demonstrates faulty logic because it has no factual basis.
Because appeals to anger are often powerful, and because they can lay the foundation for important discussions, it’s a good idea to understand how to recognize them so you can identify this faulty logic in the future and avoid making decisions that have been influenced by it.
Let’s look at some examples to further clarify this poor method of reasoning.
5 Appeal to Anger Fallacy Examples Throughout Life
1. In Politics
“Political leaders of the past have failed you! Americans are broke and there are no jobs! The top 1% holds all of the wealth! Vote for me because I will fix it!”
This is an effective way to stir up some emotions in Americans, but it doesn’t offer any type of proof that the politician speaker will actually make an impact on this issue. It doesn’t present a logical plan or any type of evidence that voting for this person will help those outside of the 1% generate any wealth. It simply riles people up about the issue and links a mutual anger between the crowd and the candidate.
2. In the Workplace
“This new policy is so unfair! The owners are trying to take advantage of us, we have to fight back!”
Without having a factual argument for why the new policy is unfair, the speaker here is simply eliciting anger in co-workers by telling them that they are being taken advantage of. The thought of possibly being taken advantage of is likely to make people mad, even if they’re not clear as to how or why this is true. But if someone is convinced of it and you’re both employed by the same person, you’re likely to take their word for it.
3. In Your Personal Life
“I can’t stand the neighbor’s new dog, it barks all day! I can’t take it! We need to sign a petition for them to move away!”
Hearing this from an outraged neighbor may be intimidating, even if it’s not your dog that they’re referencing. But the neighbor isn’t referring to any neighborhood rules regarding noise during the day, he is simply expressing his rage in an attempt to convince others to feel the same way so they can come together to gang up against the neighbor with the dog and have the solution they want.
4. Persuading a Jury
“People of the jury, you can be certain that this defendant committed this crime. Just look at the victim’s family who has been torn apart by this act of terror. Picture yourselves in their seats, fighting for justice for their loved one, and you will see this defendant is guilty.”
In this argument, no facts are presented to prove anyone’s guilt. It is simply a ploy to evoke anger in the jury by asking them to picture themselves in the family’s shoes so they feel something and believe what the speaker is saying. If the people of the jury can feel the anger of the speaker and potentially of the victims family, they will want to make a decision that they believe will bring justice of some sort–or will at least alleviate the anger.
5. In History
Adolf Hitler was one who used many different emotional appeals and logical fallacies to gain power over others, one of which was the appeal to anger. Hitler knew that when people saw or heard things over and over, it influenced how they thought and acted.
Hitler used anger to stir up prejudice, turn mild disagreements into pure hatred, and make citizens turn against each other. He found that, with using logical fallacies such as an appeal to anger, he could control people’s thoughts and actions regardless of the truth.
Hitler even planned out when he would use such logical fallacies to be the most effective. He is quoted as saying the best time to make such an appeal is “especially [in] the evening when people are tired, their powers of resistance are low, and their complete emotional capitulation is easy to achieve.”
Now let’s take a look at what you should do when you come across this logical fallacy in life.
How to Handle an Appeal to Anger Fallacy
If you hear someone making an appeal to anger in an argument, there are a few things you can do to correct them. First, identify the faulty logic and note that there is no factual basis for the claim being made. Tell the speaker what type of emotion they’re trying to elicit and then ask for facts to back up their argument.
Or, if possible, offer a strong counter argument that opposes what the speaker is saying. In this case, you would need facts to offset their weak argument, but if you’re able to present factual evidence and connect with the audience’s emotions, they’re likely to recognize the solidity of your claim.
Final Thoughts on Appeals to Anger
Appeals to anger will encourage a listener to identify with whatever message they’re hearing in a visceral way, without taking any intellectual factors into account, such as rationale. It can be tempting to use this type of argument to convince people of something, but you have to remember that an appeal to anger ultimately won’t last too long, especially once people logically start to think through your point of view. So, if you’re tempted to use this tactic, make sure you do so in tandem with the facts so you can present your audience with a well-rounded argument.
Learn More About Logical Fallacies
If you want to expand your knowledge about the different logical fallacies and learn how to avoid them, check out our other posts:
- 15 Cognitive Biases: A List of Common Biases Many People Have
- 5 Appeal to Nature Fallacy Examples in Media and Life
- 6 Outcome Bias Examples That Can Negatively Impact Your Decisions
- 7 Self-Serving Bias Examples You See Throughout Life
- 7 Omission Bias Examples That Negatively Impact Your Life
- 6 Authority Bias Examples That Might Impact Your Decisions
- 5 Burden of Proof Fallacy Examples
- 5 Appeal to Tradition Fallacy Examples in Life
- 5 Appeal to Authority Logical Fallacy Examples
- 7 False Cause Fallacy Examples
- 7 Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy Examples
- 7 Appeal to Common Sense Logical Fallacy Examples
- 5 Post Hoc Fallacy Examples (and How to Respond to This Argument)
- Gambler’s Fallacy: 5 Examples and How to Avoid It
- 7 Halo Effect Bias Examples in Your Daily Life
- 7 Poisoning the Well Examples Throughout Your Life
- 7 Survivorship Bias Examples You See in the Real World
- 7 Dunning Kruger Effect Examples in Your Life
- 7 Either Or (“False Dilemma”) Fallacy Examples in Real Life
- 5 Cui Bono Fallacy Examples to Find Out “Who Will Benefit”
- 6 Anchoring Bias Examples That Impact Your Decisions
- 7 Virtue Signaling Examples in Everyday Life
- 7 Cherry Picking Fallacy Examples for When People Ignore Evidence
- 9 Circular Reasoning Examples (or “Begging the Question”) in Everyday Life
- 9 Appeal to Emotion Logical Fallacy Examples
- 9 Appeal to Pity Fallacy (“Ad Misericordiam”) Examples in Everyday Life
- 9 Loaded Question Fallacy Examples in Life and Media
- 9 Confirmation Bias Fallacy Examples In Everyday Life
- 9 Bandwagon Fallacy Examples to Prevent Poor Decisions
- 5 Red Herring Fallacy Examples to Fight Irrelevant Information
- 9 Middle Ground Fallacy Examples to Spot During an Argument
- 5 False Equivalence Examples to Know Before Your Next Argument
- 7 Hasty Generalization Fallacy Examples & How to Respond to Them
- 6 Straw Man Fallacy Examples & How You Can Respond
- 6 False Dichotomy Examples & How to Counter Them
- 7 Slippery Slope Fallacy Examples (And How to Counter Them)
- What is the Planning Fallacy?
- How to Overcome the “Sunk Cost Fallacy” Mindset
Finally, if you want a simple process to counter the logical fallacies and cognitive biases you encounter in life, then follow this 7-step process to develop the critical thinking skills habit.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.