What Is Slippery Slope Fallacy? | Examples & Definition

Reasoning updated on  January 9, 2024 5 min read
The slippery slope fallacy is the error of unjustifiably claiming that a decision will yield an extreme result. As an informal fallacy, the slippery slope fallacy renders an argument unsound.

Slippery slope fallacies can result from poor reasoning but are sometimes used deliberately as a persuasive tactic.

Slippery slope fallacy example
A critic of remote work suggests that if businesses continue allowing employees to work from home, commercial real estate will experience catastrophic devaluation, making a recession inevitable.

What is the slippery slope fallacy?

A slippery slope fallacy asserts that an action will lead to an inevitable outcome, typically one that is extremely negative. This logical fallacy involves overstating the likelihood that one event will lead to another and failing to provide adequate supporting evidence. These fallacious arguments may also exaggerate the severity of the outcome.

Slippery slope arguments aren’t inherently fallacious. They can be valid if they use measured language, offer logical reasoning or evidence, and avoid overstating the predicted outcomes. Determining whether a slippery slope argument is fallacious or sound is somewhat subjective, as it often depends on the use and interpretation of language.

Examples: Fallacious vs. sound slippery slope arguments
Fallacious
“Unregulated facial recognition technology will lead to constant monitoring, even in private spaces. It’s a direct path to a dystopian future in which AI monitors and punishes us for our thoughts and emotions.”

This slippery slope argument is fallacious because it provides no supporting reasoning and exaggerates the certainty and severity of the outcome.

Non-fallacious
“The use of facial recognition technology could increasingly erode privacy rights. As its use becomes more pervasive, there’s a risk of gradually normalizing extensive surveillance, which will impact personal freedoms.”

A slippery slope argument can sometimes be corrected by simply replacing exaggerated predictions with more reasonable outcomes, using more nuanced language.

Why are slippery slope fallacies used?

The slippery slope fallacy is frequently employed as a rhetorical tool to evoke negative emotions such as fear, anger, and disgust. This fallacious appeal to emotion is commonly used to oppose a proposed action without providing logical reasons.

By presenting a worst-case scenario, the person who commits the slippery slope fallacy attempts to manipulate the audience. In a state of heightened emotions, people are more likely to make rash decisions instead of thinking logically about the facts presented.

Note
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What are the different types of slippery slope fallacies?

There are several categories of slippery slope fallacies. Each type asserts that a relatively moderate action will inevitably lead to an extreme outcome without sufficient evidence or logical support. The main categories of slippery slope fallacies include the following:

Causal slippery slope fallacies

Causal slippery slope fallacies claim that one action will trigger an uncontrollable chain reaction. Each step in the predicted series of events has a causal relationship to the next.

Causal slippery slope fallacy example
“If we decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana, it won’t be long before we’re legalizing all illicit substances. Adults will use drugs casually in the home, allowing children to gain access and become addicts. Widespread drug abuse will lead to a breakdown in productivity at work and a decline in school performance. Society will descend into chaos.”

Conceptual slippery slope fallacies

A conceptual slippery slope argues that a small alteration in a concept or practice will lead to a complete breakdown or loss of the original concept, often without clear logical steps.

Rather than focusing on a linear sequence of causal events, conceptual slippery slope arguments typically focus on subjective judgments of a degradation of values.

Conceptual slippery slope fallacy example
“Eliminating this standardized test will blur the definition of fair assessment in academia to the point where any form of objective evaluation will become meaningless, leading to a systemic collapse of academic rigor.”

Precedential slippery slope fallacies

A precedential slippery slope fallacy posits that a decision applied to a minor case will establish a binding precedent for all future cases, leading to unavoidable adverse consequences.

Precedential slippery slope fallacies can be considered a subtype of conceptual slippery slope fallacy.

Precedential slippery slope fallacy example
“Decriminalizing minor offenses will set a precedent that will lead to the eventual abolition of all criminal laws, fundamentally changing the courts’ concept of justice.”

Slippery slope fallacy examples

Slippery slope reasoning is a commonly used persuasive tactic, and news media and advertising are among the easiest places to find examples.

Slippery slope fallacy examples in news media

Slippery slope fallacies are especially prevalent in discussions of politics and government. Controversial, emotionally charged topics are often introduced in political slippery slope arguments that can be found in news media.

Slippery slope fallacy example in news media
“What begins as seemingly harmless government data collection for the census could easily lead to an oppressive scenario reminiscent of the Stasi in East Germany.”

The use of fallacious arguments in news media discussions may be used to manipulate the public into making certain decisions (e.g., voting for a candidate or donating to a cause). In the context of politics and government, slippery slope arguments appeal to fear rather than logic and often invoke dystopian scenarios, whether historic or imagined.

Slippery slope reasoning in advertising

Advertisers often appeal to fallacious reasoning without making an explicit argument. Slippery slope appeals can be an effective, albeit disingenuous, means of persuasion.

Slippery slope example in advertising
In marketing campaigns, slippery slope reasoning can be used to evoke strong emotions. Advertisers often appeal to fear, which is known to be a powerful motivator, to promote the purchase of a product or service.

For example, a commercial may suggest that your home will be burglarized if you fail to purchase a certain home security system, you will develop a disease if you don’t use a specific supplement, or your family will suffer if you choose the wrong life insurance policy.

Slippery slope reasoning in advertising usually exaggerates the probability and seriousness of an undesirable outcome and overstates the degree to which their product or service could protect you.

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


US vs UK

Rhetoric

Verbs

Honor or honour

Onomatopoeia

Participles

Practise or practice

Palindrome

Intransitive verbs

Color or colour

Anachronism

Simple past tense

Toward or towards

Portmanteau

Regular verbs

Behaviour or behavior

Paradox

Past progressive


Frequently asked questions about the slippery slope fallacy

Is a slippery slope argument always a fallacy?

Not all slippery slope arguments are fallacious.

  • Fallacious slippery slope arguments overstate the certainty of the negative outcome and typically don’t provide adequate evidence.
  • Non-fallacious slippery slope arguments acknowledge a series of logically connected steps leading from one event to another, with each step being reasonable and supported by evidence.

How do you respond to a slippery slope fallacy?

There are several ways to debunk slippery slope fallacies:

  • Identify exaggerations or leaps of logic between the initial action and the undesirable outcome.
  • Ask for substantiating evidence supporting the proposed relationships between the predicted events.
  • Evaluate the validity of each link in the chain of events; if any of these links lack rationality or evidence, the entire argument may be compromised.

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Magedah Shabo

Magedah is an author, editor, and educator who has empowered thousands of students to become better writers.

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