Technique #5: Ad hominem Attacks

What is an
ad hominem

An ad hominem attack is when someone attacks the person making an argument, instead of addressing the argument itself. Ad hominem attacks are commonly used to redirect the listener away from the subject at hand and towards an individual. They can be, but aren’t necessarily, fallacious, as in some cases messenger credibility is relevant to the argument at hand.

How to be sure
it’s an ad hominem

Everyday Examples

Why would you take Freud seriously, of all people? The guy had mommy issues.

Judith wrote a long criticism of my work, but I see no need to defend myself against alcoholics.

You keep saying that the earth is the center of the universe, but didn’t you get a D in math?

Study under review - coming soon

Project Description

Truth Labs for Education is a collaboration between Cambridge University, the University of Bristol, and Google Jigsaw. We created a series of short videos designed to help people resist unwanted persuasion online. The videos are rooted in a framework from social psychology called inoculation theory, which posits that by exposing people to a weakened dose of a persuasive argument or technique and pre-emptively refuting it, they develop psychological resistance against future manipulative persuasion attempts.

We created 5 videos, each of which “inoculates” people against a particular manipulation technique or misleading rhetorical device commonly encountered online: ad hominem attacks, using emotional language to evoke fear or outrage, false dichotomies, incoherence, and scapegoating.