Name calling

Name calling

Name calling is a phenomenon studied by a variety of academic disciplines from anthropology, to child psychology, to politics. It is also studied by rhetoricians, and a variety of other disciplines that study propaganda techniques and their causes and effects. The technique is most frequently employed within political discourse.


As a cognitive bias in propaganda

Name calling is a cognitive bias and a technique to promote propaganda. Propagandists use the name-calling technique to incite fears or arouse positive prejudices with the intent that invoked fear (based on fearmongering tactics) or trust will encourage those that read, see or hear propaganda to construct a negative opinion, in respect to the former, or a positive opinion, with respect to the latter, about a person, group, or set of beliefs or ideas that the propagandist would wish the recipients to believe. The method is intended to provoke conclusions and actions about a matter apart from an impartial examinations of the facts of the matter. When this tactic is used instead of an argument, name-calling is thus a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against an idea or belief, based upon its own merits, and becomes an argumentum ad hominem.[1]

In anthropology and childhood psychology

In anthropology and childhood psychology, name-calling is studied to discover how designations of derisive labels constitute a "magical attack"[clarification needed] upon a person or group.[2]

Common misconceptions

Gratuitous verbal abuse or "name-calling" itself is not an argumentum ad hominem or a logical fallacy.[3][4][5][6][7] The fallacy only occurs if personal attacks are employed in the stead of an argument to devalue an argument by attacking the speaker, not personal insults in the middle of an otherwise sound argument. However, because a statement can be countered by multiple lines of reasoning, any name-calling relating to the mental faculties of the opponent is typically a case of argumentum ad hominem. For example, ad hominem attacks would include saying the opponent is slow-witted, uneducated, too drunk to think clearly, or needs more sleep for correct judgment. "X's argument is invalid because X's analogy is false, there are differences between a republic and a democracy. But then again, X is idiotically ignorant." is gratuitously abusive but is not a fallacy because X's argument is actually addressed directly in the opening statement. "X is idiotically ignorant" is not a fallacy of itself. It is an argument that X doesn't know the difference between a republic and a democracy. But, the implication is that the opponent is too "idiotically ignorant" to think clearly, about anything. A example of a direct ad hominem fallacy would be "X is idiotically ignorant [of politics], so why should we listen to him now?"

"In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker's argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn't there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person's arguments."[3]


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • name-calling — name .calling n [U] when people use unpleasant words to describe someone in order to insult or upset them ▪ playground teasing including name calling …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • name-calling — [nām′kôl΄iŋ] n. the use of disparaging or abusive names in attacking another name caller n …   English World dictionary

  • name-calling — name ,calling noun uncount the act of saying insulting things to or about someone …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • name-calling — ˈ ̷ ̷ˌ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ noun : the use of opprobrious designations especially to win an argument or to induce rejection or condemnation (as of a person or project) without due and unimpassioned consideration of relevant facts the campaign degenerated into …   Useful english dictionary

  • name-calling — n. to engage in, go in for, resort to name calling * * * [ neɪmˌkɔːlɪŋ] go in for resort to name calling to engage in …   Combinatory dictionary

  • name-calling — call (someone) names to use impolite or unpleasant words to describe someone. If you think about all that name calling that goes on in school playgrounds, kids can be very cruel …   New idioms dictionary

  • name-calling — noun (U) the act of saying nasty things about someone: children subjected to jibes and name calling …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • name-calling — /ˈneɪm kɔlɪŋ/ (say naym kawling) noun abusive remarks directed at an opponent rather than at the argument put forward: the interview degenerated into mere name calling …  

  • name calling — See: CALL NAMES …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • name calling — See: CALL NAMES …   Dictionary of American idioms

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