Misleading Vividness is a fallacy in which a very small number of particularly dramatic events are taken to outweigh a significant amount of statistical evidence. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:
Dramatic or vivid event X occurs (and is not in accord with the majority
of the statistical evidence) .
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because the mere fact that an event is particularly vivid or dramatic does not make the event more likely to occur, especially in the face of significant statistical evidence.
People often accept this sort of "reasoning" because particularly vivid or dramatic cases tend to make a very strong impression on the human mind. For example, if a person survives a particularly awful plane crash, he might be inclined to believe that air travel is more dangerous than other forms of travel. After all, explosions and people dying around him will have a more significant impact on his mind than will the rather dull statistics that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than killed in a plane crash.
It should be kept in mind that taking into account the possibility of
something dramatic or vivid occurring is not always fallacious. For example, a
person might decide to never go sky diving because the effects of an accident
can be very, very dramatic. If he knows that, statistically, the chances of the
accident are happening are very low but he considers even a small risk to be
unacceptable, then he would not be making an error in reasoning.
Bill and Jane are talking about buying a computer.
Joe and Drew are talking about flying.
Jane: "Did you hear about that woman who was attacked in Tuttle Park?"
Sarah: "Yes. It was terrible."
Jane: "Don't you run there everyday?"
Jane: "How can you do that? I'd never be able to run there!"
Sarah: "Well, as callous as this might sound, that attack was out of the ordinary. I've been running there for three years and this has been the only attack. Sure, I worry about being attacked, but I'm not going give up my running just because there is some slight chance I'll be attacked."
Jane: "That is stupid! I'd stay away from that park if I was you! That woman was really beat up badly so you know it is going to happen again. If you don't stay out of that park, it will probably happen to you!"