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What is ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE? What does ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE mean?

Anecdotal evidence is evidence from anecdotes. Where only one or a few anecdotes are presented, there is a larger chance that they may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases. Anecdotal evidence is considered dubious support of a generalized claim; it is, however, within the scope of the scientific method for claims regarding particular instances, for example, the use of case studies in medicine.

The term is often used in contrast to scientific evidence, such as evidence-based medicine, which is a type of formal account. Some anecdotal evidence does not qualify as scientific evidence because its nature prevents it from being investigated using the scientific method. Misuse of anecdotal evidence is an informal fallacy and is sometimes referred to as the “person who” fallacy (“I know a person who…”; “I know of a case where…” etc. Compare with hasty generalization). Anecdotal evidence is not necessarily representative of a “typical” experience; in fact, human cognitive biases such as confirmation bias mean that exceptional or confirmatory anecdotes are much more likely to be remembered. Accurate determination of whether an anecdote is “typical” requires statistical evidence.

The term is sometimes used in a legal context to describe certain kinds of testimony. Psychologists have found that people are more likely to remember notable examples than typical examples. When used in advertising or promotion of a product, service, or idea, anecdotal reports are often called a testimonial, which is banned in some jurisdictions.