Im trying to describe this misappropriation of belief as something other than wishful thinking. Here is an example.

  1. Barack Obama is ineligible for the presidency if he was born in Kenya.
  2. I do not want Barack Obama to be president.

Therefore I BELIEVE Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Belief is the key word here. Obviously the word is being misused, but in this particular example, I think birthers actually 'believe' their claims. In other words, they are not lying in an attempt to exploit a loop hole.

Is there a name for this type of thinking other than 'wishful'? Thanks.

1 Answer 1


I believe what you are describing isn't a fallacy so much as a cognitive bias. In this case, the closest cognitive bias that fits your description is motivated reasoning where "when people form and cling to false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence, the phenomenon is labeled 'motivated reasoning'. In other words, 'rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.'"

The term logical fallacy isn't always defined the same way, but it generally refers to errors in the reasoning process itself, but doesn't describe the cognitive process by which people commonly acquire false beliefs. Fallacies are often erroneous by their similarity to valid modes of reasoning, such as in the case of hasty generalization where it is difficult to define exactly how much data you need in order to make a valid inference, or in other cases the fallacy is simply deceptive in its own right, in the case of the fallacy of composition. The syllogism you describe doesn't sound to me like a "syllogism" in it's own right because what you describe as an inference really looks like a description of the utterer's cognition, which you may or may not be correct about.

  • Can you please add sources for the provided quote?
    – iphigenie
    Oct 13, 2013 at 19:53
  • 1
    It's from the Wikipedia page. I don't know how you want their citation formatted, but it's: Begley, Sharon. "Lies of Mass Destruction," Newsweek (US). August 25, 2009. Oct 14, 2013 at 2:26

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