What is Overgeneralization?
Here are some examples of overgeneralization:
- Pit bulls are aggressive.
- Rich people are greedy.
- Beautiful people are conceited.
- Politicians are corrupt.
- People who commit crimes come from troubled backgrounds.
- College students love partying.
- Marijuana users are lazy.
- People always demand too much of my time.
- Why do I always catch every red light?
- She always forgets to buy milk.
Overgeneralization may also be known as
- a sweeping statement
- a distorted statement
- a lack of reasoning
- a logical fallacy
- a cognitive error
- a logical error
- a methodological error
Why Does Overgeneralization Matter?
Overgeneralization undermines a writer or speaker’s ethos. Educated audiences engage in critical literacy practices. They question the authority and accuracy of information. So, when writers and speakers use overgeneralization in their discourse, audiences are likely to dismiss their work as unprofessional–as writer-based.
To educated audiences, overgeneralization may signal
- underdeveloped thinking (reflecting laziness)
- a lack of understanding of academic writing conventions and professional writing conventions.
How to Avoid Generalization
- Does the statement make an assumption about a group of people, things, or a topic?
- Can the statement be backed up in my evidence?
- Is the statement true in all cases? If not, have I sufficiently explained exceptions to the statement?
- Have I considered situations in which this statement may not apply?