When Good Arguments Go Bad: An Activity for Learning about Fallacies in Reasoning


  • Robert H. Gass California State University, Fullerton
  • John S. Seiter Utah State University


Public Speaking, Logic, Debate, Argumentation, Critical Thinking, Writing, Rhetoric


The ability to think, reason, and argue well depends, among other things, on students’ ability to identify and avoid informal fallacies. This exercise enhances students’ understanding of fallacies through an experiential activity in which they construct fallacies on their own and identify fallacies created by other students. In the process, they consider the ethical and practical considerations of encountering fallacies in "real life." The exercise can be used in a variety of college courses, including public speaking, logic, debate, argumentation, critical thinking, writing, rhetoric, and others.

Author Biography

John S. Seiter, Utah State University

John Seiter earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. He is a professor at Utah State University, where he was previously named the university’s Professor of the Year and the college’s Researcher of the Year. With Robert Gass, he coauthored the textbook Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining, now in its sixth edition. John has also co-edited two books and published over 50 articles and chapters. His research, which has received eight national awards, focuses on a variety of topics, including deception detection, political aggression, and hospitality. He currently sits on the editorial boards of three journals.


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Seiter, J. S., Gass, R. H., & Seiter, C. R. (2018). Persuasion GO: An activity for increasing students’ awareness of approaches to social influence. Communication Teacher. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/17404622.2017.1372606

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Walton, D.N. (1995). A pragmatic theory of fallacy. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.






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