False attribution can refer to:
- Misattribution in general, when a quotation or work is accidentally, traditionally, or based on bad information attributed to the wrong person or group
- A specific fallacy where an advocate appeals to an irrelevant, unqualified, unidentified, biased, or fabricated source in support of an argument.
The fallacy of false attribution is a type of appeal to authority, where the proponent either hides or puffs up the credentials or credibility of the source to enhance an argument.
A version of false attribution is where a fraudulent advocate goes so far as to fabricate a source, such as creating a fake website, in order to support a claim. For example, the “Levitt Institute” was a fake organisation created in 2009 solely for the purposes of (successfully) fooling the Australian media into reporting that Sydney was Australia’s most naive city.
Incorrect identification of source
Another particular case of misattribution is the Matthew effect: a quotation is often attributed to someone more famous than the real author. This leads the quotation to be more famous, but the real author to be forgotten (see also: obliteration by incorporation).
In Jewish biblical studies, an entire group of falsely-attributed books is known as the pseudepigrapha.
Such misattributions may originate as a sort of fallacious argument, if use of the quotation is meant to be persuasive, and attachment to a more famous person (whether intentionally or through misremembering) would lend it more authority.
- Humbug! The skeptic’s field guide to spotting fallacies in thinking, a textbook on fallacies. "False Attribution": p. 56.
- Deception Detection Deficiency, Media Watch.
- Mermin, N. David (2004). "Could Feynman Have Said This?". Physics Today. 57: 10. doi:10.1063/1.1768652.
- Garson O'Toole (2017). Hemingway Didn't Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations. Little A. ISBN 978-1503933408.