Wrong direction

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The wrong direction fallacy is a logical fallacy where the cause and effect of a situation are reversed. The cause is said to be the effect and vice versa, taking the converse of a statement as true.

Put another way, the established fact is 'if p, then q.' Those guilty of committing this fallacy believe erroneously that 'if q, then p.'


  • Cancer causes smoking.
  • The increase in AIDS was caused by increased sex education. (The converse is true.)
  • Wheelchairs are dangerous-most people in wheelchairs have been in an accident.
  • God created man.


A related fallacy is assuming that there is causation when the direction of causation (if any at all) is unclear. See Post hoc ergo propter hoc. This fallacy is often found in discussion relating to the social sciences where it is difficult to isolate experimental subjects.

For example:

  • Children who watch a lot of TV are often more violent than their peers. Therefore, watching a lot of TV makes children more violent.

Possibly-however, this doesn't rule out the possibility that children who are more violent (for other reasons) enjoy watching TV more than their peers or that the two have no causation link whatsoever.

  • Recreational drugs (alcohol, cannabis, etc.) are used as self medication for pre-existing psychological conditions.

Do recreational drugs cause psychological conditions? Or, perhaps, do those with the predisposition for those conditions have a higher likelihood of taking recreational drugs and then make their conditions worse because of it?

  • Scientists are less likely to be religious than the general population. This is because being trained in the scientific method makes people less susceptible to religion.

As much as it would be nice if this were true, it may be that those who are less susceptible to religion because of other factors (disillusionment, never being indoctrinated, etc.) makes people more likely to get training in the sciences, or, of course, that there isn't any causation link, just a basic correlation.

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