Spotlight fallacy

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The Spotlight fallacy, or sampling bias is when one assumes the same properties for all instances of a subject or object when a particular instance in focus has those traits. In other words, the observer is only aware of what one example of a object/subject is like, because it's the one that has the spotlight shining on it, lighting it up, and assumes the rest are the same. It's similar to confirmation bias, except the person isn't aware of the "misses". This happens frequently in the mainstream media, as one subject or another is addressed.


  • Bob watches the news, and every time New York appears in a news report, the scene is that of a paved sidewalk. Bob concludes that all of New York is paved sidewalk.
  • Many Christians see select clips of atheists on TV, and assume all atheists are the same as the ways the atheists are represented.
  • An atheist may assume all Christians are morons because that's the only type he/she has encountered.

v · d Logical fallacies
v · d Formal fallacies
Propositional logic   Affirming a disjunct · Affirming the consequent · Argument from fallacy · False dilemma · Denying the antecedent
Quantificational logic   Existential fallacy · Illicit conversion · Proof by example · Quantifier shift
Syllogistic   Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise · Exclusive premises · Necessity · Four-term fallacy · Illicit major · Illicit minor · Undistributed middle

v · d Faulty generalisations
General   Begging the question · Gambler's fallacy · Slippery slope · Equivocation · argumentum verbosium
Distribution fallacies   Fallacy of composition · Fallacy of division
Data mining   Cherry picking · Accident fallacy · Spotlight fallacy · Hasty generalization · Special pleading
Causation fallacies   Post hoc ergo propter hoc · Retrospective determinism · Suppressed correlative · Wrong direction
Ontological fallacies   Fallacy of reification · Pathetic fallacy · Loki's Wager
v · d False relevance
Appeals   Appeal to authority · Appeal to consequences · Appeal to emotion · Appeal to motive · Appeal to novelty · Appeal to tradition · Appeal to pity · Appeal to popularity · Appeal to poverty · Appeal to spite · Appeal to wealth · Sentimental fallacy · Argumentum ad baculum
Ad hominem   Ad hominem abusive · Reductio ad Hitlerum · Judgmental language · Straw man · Tu quoque · Poisoning the well
Genetic Fallacies   Genetic fallacy · Association fallacy · Appeal to tradition · Texas sharpshooter fallacy