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Fallacy of Composition

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Fallacy of Composition:

Claiming that because a statement is true of the parts, it must be true of the whole.

Everything is made of atoms.
Atoms are invisible to the naked eye.
Therefore everything is invisible to the naked eye.

A type of generalisation fallacy. Inverse of the Fallacy of Division, where it is argued that the parts must inherit traits from the whole.





  • Occasionally, musicians from a number of different bands may come together and form a "supergroup" with the overall hype being that the sum of the supergroup's parts are better than the original bands they came from (i.e. Velvet Revolver, Audioslave), only for it all to end up being unlistenable rubbish.
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  • In-universe example from Jonathan Coulton's "Skullcrusher Mountain"
    I made you this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you.
    But I get the feeling you don't like it.
    What's with all the screaming?
    You like ponies. You like monkeys.
    Maybe you don't like monsters so much.
    Maybe I used too many monkeys.
    Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony
    Making a gift for you?

Myth and Folklore

  • The story of the Three Blind Men and the Elephant. Many versions exist, but here is a short version. Three blind men examine an elephant. The first grabs the trunk and says, "Ah! It's like a great snake!" The second grabs the leg and says, "No, it is like a great tree!" The third pushes the side and says, "No, it is more like a great wall!" Then the elephant tramples them, because elephants don't have any time for the fallacy of composition.

Stand-Up Comedy

Tabletop Games

  • The Thirty-One Official Flavors in Paranoia currently include Vanilla-Prune, and Strawberry-Lobster is due to be rotated in next year.


  • Cirque du Soleil and Criss Angel are both popular, so it was believed that a collaboration between the company and the magician on a Las Vegas magic show was money in the bank; instead, Criss Angel BeLIEve required a massive Retool to keep running.

Web Original

  • Zero Punctuation: Yahtzee tries to combine his two favorite foods, Cadbury Chocolate Eggs with Branston Pickles, and finds the result inedible.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • One common strategy in politics is to hold up extreme members of a group as typical of the whole. For example, "Bob went to your rally and is a Nazi, so everyone at your rally must be Nazis." A similar example is "Dogs have four legs. Cats have four legs. Therefore, cats are dogs."
  • The classic trick question "which is heavier, a ton of feathers or a ton of lead?" works because of this fallacy; the hope is that the person answering will think that because individual feathers are light, a measured weight of them would be lighter than the same weight of something normally thought of as "heavy."
  • Internet filters rely on this trope. Imagine why Pakistan blocked all of Facebook because of just one group.
  • Any artistic endeavours which employ several superstars within their respective fields and hope the lightning strikes again can fall prey to this trope. For one example, the game Shadows of the Damned features the work of three famous Japanese developers. The result, while positively received, was not considered a gift from the gaming gods. Likewise, David Hayter, Dave Gibbons (not Alan Moore, though), and Zack Snyder put out the Watchmen movie and received similarly lukewarm reviews.
  • Alternative health claims are rife with these. The claimants will say that X is in a drug/food/compound, and therefore that the substance is healthful/unhealthful. For example, one fad claims that Splenda is toxic because it contains the element chlorine. It does. So does table salt. That's a classic example of this fallacy. Another is to list all the side-effects a medicine can have as if it will have those side effects, even if it is not even being administered in a way where they could possibly manifest.
  • A list of sports examples could probably be its own wiki - and you'd probably have to have a different wiki for every sport! Suffice it to say, "we're the best team in the league, therefore by signing the best player we'll get better" has been a prevalent attitude throughout the history of sport. Sometimes, yes, it pays off. A lot of doesn't.
  • The Paradox of Thrift is an economic concept based on this. The fallacy assumes that typically, it is better for an individual to save, increasing his/her financial capital, allowing that individual to invest and improve his/her lot. But if everyone saves, then because no one is consuming, businesses have to contract and lay off workers, slowing the economy and making everyone worse off. What's good for the individual (saving) isn't good for the economy in the aggregate.
  • Global warming deniers make this fallacy when they claim that cold weather during the winter disproves global warming. Of course, it can be very cold, even unusually so, in one area and still have a mean rise in global temperature. To say otherwise is like saying you can't run a fever and have cold feet at the same time. They also use this when talking about climate change papers from the 60s and 70s predicting global cooling. Not only is this a case of not realizing that Science Marches On, but they conveniently ignore the fact that more papers published in that period predicted global warming instead of cooling.note  Of course, it is equally fallacious to claim that any single instance of unseasonably warm—or unseasonably cool—weather anywhere, at any time, is evidence of global warming or climate change.
  • The ubiquitous argument "If the president of this corporation is corrupt, then the whole corp is playing dirty". Believed by the masses when the higher ups are investigated or tried for any crime, even though it may have nothing to do with the other workers of the company.
  • Computer scientist Fred Brooks, in his famous 1975 book, The Mythical Man-Month, argues that this type of thinking causes managers to add more software developers to late software projects, thinking it will speed up productivity, while it actually just makes the project later as developers need time to come up to speed. Brooks joked that this was like thinking that if it takes nine months for a woman to make a baby, then nine women could produce a baby in a month.

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