Sep 22, 2011

Posted by in Fallacy of the Week | 0 Comments

Fallacy of the Week – Complex Question

Complex Question _ coercion by asking a loaded question. Supposing or inferring intent, placing the second party in an uncomfortable or confusing position.

Examples:

1. “Is there anything hidden in your carry-on that could hurt me or anyone on the plane?

2. “How often do you lie to authority figures?”

3. “Will you finally accept reality and admit that you are wrong and I’m right?”

These are just a few examples of complex questions. They are “loaded” because they imply a fact that hasn’t been established. The complex nature of the question means that a simple yes or no answer will infer guilt. It attempts to set a ground rule for further incrimination. These type of questions are constructed to do just that. The person being asked the complex question may simply ask a return question to diffuse it. For example:

TSA worker: “Is there anything hidden in your carry-on that could hurt me or anyone on the plane?

Passenger: “What can hurt you?” “What is dangerous to have in my bag?”

First, it’s assumed that you’re hiding something. Next, you would have to know everything that could hurt anyone before you could truthfully answer. Maybe someone has a rare allergy to something you’re carrying but you wouldn’t know that unless they told you!

Watch out for the loaded question and be prepared to ask the right question back!

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