Does my bum look big in this?
I am sure that almost everyone has had someone ask them this awkward question. Do you say no or do you say yes? This fallacy is an example of a loaded question. The question is biased as it contains a clearly built-in assumption, because it says ‘does my bum look BIG in this?’ the BIG emphasises the fact that the person asking the question (your mum, best friend or that really annoying girl*) wants to have a big bum.
A famous example of loaded question is from the amazing book by Lewis Carroll and film, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice asks: “How am I to get in?” to which the footman replies “Are you going to get in at all?” then he says “That’s the first question, you know.” Loaded questions are powerful as they allow no room for the answerer to protest their ‘real’ opinion or innocence.
My example is a combination of two distinct simpler questions:
1) Does my bum look big?
2) If so, does my bum look big now?
It would be more direct to ask the first question but because the person asking WANTS a particular answer, they then combine the two.
Where do you come across loaded questions? Everywhere. The other day I was shopping and I was in the middle of admiring a particular scarf when annoyingly a saleswoman asked me “Are you paying with cash or card?”. Really I wanted to ask if I said I was even buying it! This kind of awkward question used by salespeople makes me feel like succumbing and buying the product. But now we know what they are doing and we shall resist.
*Not naming any names.