The AP English Exam: The Bandwagon Fallacy

Another common form of logical fallacy is the bandwagon fallacy, something you will encounter on the AP English exam. This catchy name comes from the phrase "jump on the bandwagon". When someone is said to have jumped on the bandwagon, it means they are supporting a cause only because other people support it and it is popular to do so.

Therefore, a bandwagon fallacy is an argument that relies on the popularity of a point to prove its value. A bandwagon argument will essentially claim that because most people agree about this topic, what they all believe is true or right.

An example of this that many people encounter in daily life is an argument between parents and kids. If you say to your parents "You have to let me go to Cancun for Spring Break, all of my friends' parents said that it's okay," then your argument relies on a bandwagon fallacy that it's a good idea to go to Cancun because other parents think so.

Another place that we typically encounter bandwagon appeals is in commercials. Any product that advertises itself based on its popularity, rather than its merits, is trying to equate popularity with quality in a textbook bandwagon appeal.

In the written world, and specifically on the AP English Exam, bandwagon appeals (like all logical fallacies) are more likely to appear in non-fiction than in fiction works. If you notice an author making an argument based on what the majority of people do or think, be sure to identify that as a bandwagon fallacy.

Of course, bandwagon fallacies can show up in fiction works as well. If a character is portrayed as either making or submitting to a bandwagon appeal, that has significant implications for whatever points are being made in the piece. Perhaps the author is trying to signify that a certain character is susceptible to crowd mentality or makes decisions based on what others think, which will cast the rest of the choices made in the piece in a different light.

Keeping an eye out for bandwagon appeals, even when made by fictional characters, will not only help you avoid falling prey to logical fallacies in your own life, but will also help you analyze written works more successfully.

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