How relevant is the evidence used in supporting a particular claim? It can be a common tactic of advertising agencies, sophists, and other agents of persuasion to cite information that initially seems to uphold their assertion, but upon closer inspection is irrelevant to the actual claim. This brief essay will clarify what a semi-attached figure is and how it’s used to confuse the audience.
A semi-attached figure is an article of evidence used to support a particular claim which, though it seems strongly suggestive of the claim’s correctness, is not actually relevant to the claim at all. Take the hypothetical situation where a company representative wishes to assert to their shareholders that the company is successful. The representative may point to the company’s recent and increased intake of new hires, saying that this demonstrates that the company is growing. While, at first, this might seem indicative of the success of the company, why are individuals getting hired? It could be that the company has recently laid off many employees and turned to outsourcing in order to stay afloat. Take yet another hypothetical scenario where an individual wishes to advertise the ability of a particular product to make oneself healthy, citing that most people who have taken it report feeling great afterward. Is feeling great indicative of an improvement in health? There are many reasons why a person may feel great without their health being affected. If the product is a health beverage, perhaps it is quite delicious to consume and so consumers feel satisfied after having it. Perhaps they’ve been led to believe that this product is making them healthy, so they feel great under the misguided belief that they’re contributing to their health. In this instance, the advertiser has attempted to persuade the audience that the product is healthy using evidence that does not actually affirm that claim, even though it seems to. This is what a semi-attached figure is and how it often misleads people into accepting claims that are unsubstantiated.
When dealing with evidence, be sure to ask yourself how the evidence specifically proves the claim. One useful technique in assessing this is to propose alternative explanations for how the claim could be false and the evidence could still be true, such as with people feeling good due to a placebo effect. If you can conceive of ways for the evidence to exist and the conclusion to be false, it indicates that the evidence isn’t necessarily relevant to the conclusion. It takes some work to get used to, but you’ll be deceived far less often if you critically assess whether the evidence is actually relevant to the claim or not.