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I often hear or read statements that seem to have a similar type of fallacious reasoning about it. I want to know if there is a name this type of fallacy:

  • Top women chess players have a lower draw rate than top men chess players, therefore women players are more aggressive.

This is a fallacy, because if you compare top women chess players with similarly ranked men chess players then their draw rate is the same, meaning that the "aggression" aspect has less to do with gender and more with level of play.

A different example:

  • Top C++ programmers earn more than top Java developers, therefore C++ programmers are smarter.

This seems like a similar fallacy, because if you compare Java and C++ programmers in the same application domain, then their earnings are similar.

Clearly this is a type of false equivocation, because we are dealing with comparing apples and oranges. However, this seems different from the more traditional case where you use syntactically similar but semantically different concepts (as in the theory of evolution is only a theory) - in this case the root of the fallacy is that the context within which the concepts are similar is not the context within which the argument is being presented.

  • Comparisons across differing domains often require contextualisation - as you have noted. – Mozibur Ullah Sep 30 '14 at 11:39
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    I would want to call this a sampling equivocation: the sampling method gets altered between premise and conclusion. I see this frequently when it comes to claims of religion causing various bad things. – labreuer Oct 1 '14 at 5:56
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If you write, for example, the first one as a syllogism, you get something like:

  • P1: Top women chess players have a lower draw rate than top men chess players.
  • P2: If one group has a lower draw rate than another group, the first group is more aggressive.
  • C: Top women chess players are more aggressive than top men chess players.

The first thing I notice is that I had to change your conclusion of "women [chess] players are more aggressive [than men chess players]" to "Top women chess players are more aggressive than top men chess players". There was a fallacy of composition in your version.

With that change, it looks to me as if the argument is valid. But is it sound? Granting P1 is true (I have no idea whether it is or not), we may still be left with a Fallacy of the Single Cause in P2: there are reasons other than aggressiveness that could explain the outcome in P1, such as the difference in rankings.

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