George Lucas Educational Foundation
Critical Thinking

Logic Shrink: A Game That Teaches Students to Spot Logical Fallacies

October 21, 2016

Heated political rhetoric is everywhere. It sets us apart from one another and erodes what’s left of civil discourse. It grinds the worthy concept of logic into dust. Not any more. Not when we fight back with a game I’m calling Logic Shrink.

You don’t need an app, a console, even a board. It’s entirely your game and entirely free. It's perfectly suited for the classroom, especially for preteen through college, but I've taught it to much younger kids. (Something about a seven-year-old shouting "ad hominem!" soothes my soul.)

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Afterwards, when the lively score-keeping has ended there will be something new in the room. It may be unfamiliar at first. It’s a state of being that requires no strawman, no slippery slope. It’s logical thinking.

Now just envision the game being played over and over, from classrooms to living rooms to sports bars, spreading this thing called logic across all our so-called divisions. Even if every snarky pundit huffed off the airwaves the game wouldn’t have to end. We’d just spread nice thick layers of logic in plenty of other places.

How To Play Logic Shrink

The basic format is to watch or listen to two sides of an issue as presented by pundits, politicians, or other talking heads. Using a guide to logical fallacies, players call out any errors they perceive. The first person to call out a fallacy that at least a third of other players agree is correctly identified, gains points. Players who correctly estimate in advance how many fallacies will be committed by each side gain points too.

1. First, print out or otherwise make available a list of logical fallacies. (See list of resources below.) As with any game, the players won’t be immediately familiar with all of these fallacies nor the names they’re commonly called. Shorten the list to the most common fallacies for new players or younger children. Give a little time in advance of each game for players to go over the list. It seems dull now, but it won’t when players use the list to score points. Liven up the logical fallacy list any way you like, perhaps giving an introduction to each as a stand-up comedy routine or asking each player to offer an example of a logical fallacy they’ve heard recently.

2. Locate competing sources. That might be conservative versus liberal shows. It might be a political debate. It might be two podcasters squaring off on an inflammatory issue. It’s best if the sources are taped or otherwise pause-able, because you’ll be stopping them a few times. Start with no more than ten minutes of each. Maybe five. 

3.  Scoring. This is your game so you may keep score any way you choose. Here are my suggestions. At the beginning of each game, guess the number of fallacies each different segment will provide and put that number at the top of your list or other scoring method. Then keep track of fallacies outed. The easiest way? Provide two different colored pencils to each player (helpful for designating which source committed which fallacy), then let players check off each fallacy on the list they hear. They must be the first to call out the fallacy aloud to earn points. You can get more high tech if you’d like, there are all sorts of student response systems (SRS), audience response systems (ARS), and personal response systems (PRS) available for smart phones and tablets. You can even make a wall-sized board that lights up when players touch a remote. This game is ripe for geekifying.

4. Disputing scores. This is where it gets, shall we say, energized. Stick to the statements heard and the way those statements fit on the list of logical fallacies. No insertion of outside facts, tempting as this may be. The goal of the game is only to discover illogical rhetoric. Be the first to call out a logical fallacy, you get five points if at least a third of other players agree by a quick show of hands. Other players can dispute the exact fallacy you claim or that any fallacy exists. (The recording will need to be turned off or backed up a few times.) Everyone should add the agreed-upon fallacies out to their overall score sheet, seeing who gets closest to their pre-game estimates. At the end, the closest overall estimator gets 25 points. Also add up scores earned during the game. Grand total wins, although we all know, logic does.

To recap

Pass out list of logical fallacies.

Go over them together.

Explain scoring.

Start the show, stopping when necessary to sort out all the yelling and raised hands.

Finish by adding up scores.

Cheer for the elevation of reason and logic.

Let me how you play, and improve on, Logic Shrink. If you come up with a great app or device to use with Logic Shrink, feel free to give me a cut. So far, tirelessly advancing good causes hasn’t paid me a nickel.

Logical fallacy lists

  • Download a free fallacies poster https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com
  • http://encyclopedia.kids.net.au/page/lo/Logical_fallacy
  • http://don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#pious_fraud
  • http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/fallacies_list.html

Other logical fallacy resources

  • Six animations explaining some critical thinking basics, including several logical fallacies. https://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/09/critical-thinking/
  • Prezi on Fallacies for Children using old advertisements as examples https://prezi.com/o4twu1u-n10a/fallacies-for-children/
  • An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi ages 10 and up
  • The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedom, ages 12 and up
  • Mastering Logical Fallacies  by Michael Withey, high school and up

Need two competing sources?

Try five minutes from the conservative side such as:

  • The Glenn Beck Program http://www.glennbeck.com/content/radio/
  • The Rush Limbaugh Show http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/
  • Fox & Friends http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/fox-and-friends/index.html

and five minutes from the liberal side such as:

  • The Rachel Maddow Show http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show
  • Thom Hartmann http://www.thomhartmann.com/
  • Democracy Now http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/democracy-now

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.

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Filed Under

  • Critical Thinking
  • Media Literacy
  • Social Studies
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School