Name calling

Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement lists name calling as the lowest type of argument in a disagreement.

Name calling is abusive or insulting language referring to a person or group, a verbal abuse. This phenomenon is 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 and school systems, in an attempt to negatively impact their opponent.

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 fear mongering 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 politics and public opinion

Politicians often resort to “name calling” during political campaigns or public events with the intentions of gaining advantage over, or defending themselves from, an opponent or critic.

Common misconceptions

Gratuitous verbal abuse or "name-calling" is not on its own an example of the argumentum ad hominem logical fallacy.[2][3][4][5][6] The fallacy occurs only if personal attacks are employed to devalue a speaker's argument by attacking the speaker; personal insults in the middle of an otherwise sound argument are not ad hominem attacks.


  1. Andy McDonald, Lene Palmer. Propaganda Techniques, George Mason University
  2. "The Ad Hominem Fallacy Fallacy". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  3. "Logical Fallacy: Argumentum ad Hominem". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  4. Ad hominem fallacy, Logical Fallacies, Formal and Informal, Independent Individualist.
  5. "AdHominem". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  6. "Logical Fallacies» Ad Hominem (Personal Attack)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
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