Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Ecological Fallacy

Wow! I just learned a new expression and boy, it is great: "ecological fallacy".

Here's the Wikipedia definition:
An ecological fallacy (or ecological inference fallacy) is an error in the interpretation of statistical data in an ecological study, whereby inferences about the nature of specific individuals are based solely upon aggregate statistics collected for the group to which those individuals belong. This fallacy assumes that individual members of a group have the average characteristics of the group at large. This can also be referred to as the fallacy of division.
Isn't that just wonderful?

It certainly goes an awfully long way towards explaining fat prejudice...because we all know that ALL overweight people are lazy, junk food addicts who got themselves into this fine mess all on their own and are wholly responsible for their terrible health and their shortened lifespan. That's what the media tell us and the media always tell the truth, based on infallible scientific data.



  1. Yes! Light bulb moment. A very good expression, and explains a lot. People make these assumptions all the time. Thanks for posting this, I shall file that useful phrase away in my memory bank and use it when the appropriate time comes.

  2. I will file this one away beside metacognitive miscalibration...another one of my faves!

  3. Yep. It's a dangerous fallacy, too, when health care providers fail to understand the statistical significance of data. Gets even worse when it turns out that the data is flawed, skewed, or otherwise biased.

    I used to believe in the paradigm of medical science. Now I see capitalism written all over it. Well. I see capitalism written all over many things, including the fate of our species. I would like to believe that humans (humanity) have gotten out of sticky wickets in the past, so humans can do it again...

    But once I believed in the tooth fairy. Too. :)


  4. I've been saying for a while now that the majority of fat stigma arises from the fact that most people assume that everyone else is exactly like they are -- genetically thin people look at genetically fat people and think that they must be doing what THEY THEMSELVES (the thin people) would have to do to get that fat; i.e., eat massive quantities of food and lie motionless 24/7. Now, thanks to this post, I have an intelligent-sounding term to throw around about what I'm saying. Thanks!