What is the technical term for when people thinks the actions of the few represent the many.

Like when people thinks everyone in a specific group behaves a certain way cause of how a few people in the group behave, including non stereotypical behaviours. I thought it was "generalisation" but I couldn't find any articles using that term.

  • 1
    Stereotype is the usual term.
    – Xanne
    May 14 '17 at 2:16
  • @Xanne yeah but the thing is this is a case when someone assumes anything a person does, is what that person's social group does. Including none stereotypical things like thinking all blondes throwing gum at rats cause one blonde did but throwing gum isn't a stereotype for blondes. Does that make sense? I might be wrong
    – Drew U
    May 14 '17 at 2:48
  • Applying or extending the actions of one individual to a supposed group or category or class to which that individual supposedly belongs. There's a lot going on here, and a word isn't going to give you an answer.
    – Xanne
    May 14 '17 at 3:00
  • In logic this is called induction, but if your field is sociology, then there's likely to be another accepted term. May 14 '17 at 3:01
  • @michael.hor257k it is sociology.
    – Drew U
    May 14 '17 at 3:10

The scientific term for this is "the fallacy of composition":

The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.

From The University of Tennessee at Martin:

The Composition Fallacy occurs when someone mistakenly assumes that a characteristic of some or all the individuals in a group is also a characteristic of the group itself, the group "composed" of those members.

So when one thinks actions of a subset of a group represent the behavior of the whole group, they are committing the fallacy of composition.

  • I asked this in a different place and the answers were generalization and stereotyping but I like this answer much better. It sounds more formal.
    – jcollum
    Jul 23 '20 at 20:25

Generalizing, or generalization is another term you could use.

  • I'm trying to write a short paper on it. I'm having a hard time finding articles using generalizing or generalization
    – Drew U
    May 14 '17 at 2:52

"Tarring with a broad brush" is a very old idiom implying that bystanders are receiving the negative consequences ("tarring and feathering") properly applied to only the wrongdoers or that the consequences are out of proportion to the crime.

A brief search has the idiom as "tarred with the same brush" so maybe I am misremembering it.


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