Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Nominal Fallacy

  • Richard Remedios
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_357-1

The nominal fallacy is the belief that by naming something, we have also explained it. The naming of a concept does not make the meaning of the concept a self-evident truth and does not confer any explanatory power. For example, animals that live in our homes and share our lives can be defined as pets, and pets can be defined as animals that live in our homes and share our lives. Yet, by assigning a singular label for a concept, we have not gained any further insight into what an animal that lives in our homes and shares our lives, is (Eddy 2003).

As another example, we can describe a behavior as being a product of “instinct” and assume that everyone will know what set of behaviors comprise an “instinct”. But clearly, this is not true, as Kuo (1921) put it, “no two psychologists will agree upon the definition of and what constitutes human instincts” (p. 646). The same can be said for the word “group.” While intuitively understood by everyone, it is difficult to define and...

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References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Eddy, T. J. (2003). What is a pet? Anthrozoös, 16(2), 98–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Kuo, Z. Y. (1921). Giving up instincts in psychology. Journal of Philosophy, 18(24), 645–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Mudrack, P. E. (1989). Defining group cohesiveness: A legacy of confusion? Small Group Research, 20(1), 37–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northcentral UniversitySan DiegoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Annika Paukner
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Comparative EthologyEunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentPoolesvilleUSA