False attribution

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The fallacy of a false attribution occurs when an advocate appeals to an irrelevant, unqualified, unidentified, biased, or fabricated source in support of an argument.[1]

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.[2] See also "Fake news".

A contextomy is a type of false attribution.[citation needed]

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).[3]


  1. ^ Humbug! The skeptic’s field guide to spotting fallacies in thinking, a textbook on fallacies. "False Attribution": p. 56.
  2. ^ Deception Detection Deficiency, Media Watch.
  3. ^ Mermin, N. David (2004). "Could Feynman Have Said This?". Physics Today. 57: 10. doi:10.1063/1.1768652.