Anecdotal evidence

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Anecdotal evidence is unreliable evidence based on personal observations and experiences (often recounted by way of anecdote) that has not been empirically tested, and which is often used in an argument as if it had been scientifically or statistically proven. The person using anecdotal evidence may or may not be aware of the fact that, by doing so, they are generalizing.

For example, a politician might publicly demand better teacher training facilities because their own son or daughter happens to have a spectacularly incompetent teacher, or conversely, might insist that schools are in fine shape because their own son or daughter happens to have a singularly wonderful teacher.

Anecdotal evidence is not fallacious per se; its characterization as unreliable must be understood to mean unreliable with respect to the scientific method. Many (perhaps most) true phenomena are first observed in the form of anecdotal evidence. For example eating limes to prevent scurvy was supported by anecdotal evidence for close to three centuries, beginning with the observations of James Lind. The causative elements involved were only identified after the structure of Vitamin C was discovered, and the link between Vitamin C and scurvy was only Scientifically proven in 1932 by Szent-Gyorgyi.

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