Crooked Thinking II — All and Some

Generalised statements that imply ‘all’ have no place in describing social behavior. Such statements can be hurtful, and manifest in people’s thought processes.
Source: Courtesy of Pixabay
“Women are politically incapable”
“Red-haired people are crazy”
“Brown-eyed people are intelligent”
“Brunetts are hardworking”

Do these statements mean all, some, or most? Are they comparing it with people that don’t have that attribute at all? How did they reach that conclusion? Do they have numerical backing? Did they rally up all the people with those attributes before making such claims?

These are some of the questions that come to my mind when I hear general statements like that.

Let’s take “women are politically incapable” statement for instance. The parameters ‘all’ and ‘most’ can only be justified if there is a numerical backing of a hundred percent to claim all or at least 50 percent to claim most from testing all women. With billions of women around the world, I doubt that such a study was conducted, nor does it even exist.

What about ‘some’? Well, some women may be politically incapable but then so are some men. Same logic applies to other statements listed above. Hence, the statement is just as valid as “Men are politically incapable”. In other words, ‘some’ amounts to barely anything, and does not induce any sort of emotional response from the recipient.

Then, what validity do these statements have? Especially in a behavioral setting that describes social behavior.

“Human beings differ from each other too much for it to be likely that is the sciences dealing with them one will find many true statements that can be made about them that can be in the form of “All Xs are Y”” — Robert Thouless

General statements that imply all are dishonest proliferate the world of politics and propaganda. Too often we see them used in politicised media, clickbait titled articles, and even politicians speaking at rallies.

When claims like these are made about race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or nationality, it has the power to result in cruelty and injustice towards the cited group. Such examples include the prosecution of Jews during Second World War, of aristocrats during the French revolution, and of minorities currently in our own country.

Unless we recognize this bias, it will continue to manifest in our thinking, with dire consequences.

This blog-post is Part 2 of blog-post series about my reflections on some of the topics covered in Robert H. Thoulsess’ book “Straight and Crooked Thinking”