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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Complex Question Fallacy


I practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which I understand has been “criticized for being too harsh and confrontational.” Given this information, imagine that I attended a podcast interview and the host asked me the following:


“Deric, how long do you plan on continuing your practice of being abusive or aggressive with your clients?”


Some people may recognize this line of questioning as representing a Kafka trap. Regarding this sort of fallacy, one source states that “Kafka trap is a fallacy where if someone denies being x it is taken as evidence that the person is x[,] since someone who is x would deny being x.”


Still, as is the case with a number of logical or rhetorical fallacies, more than on form of fallacy can apply to the aforementioned podcast question. In particular, one source states, “A complex question fallacy occurs when someone asks a question that presupposes the answer to another question that has not been established or accepted by the other person.”


If an imaginary podcaster asked me about abuse or aggression towards the clients I serve, this form of complex question assumes the answer to an inquiry that hasn’t been established or accepted by me. Therefore, it’s a logically fallacious question.


Expanding upon the crossover similarity to a Kafka trap, one source adds:


Logical Form:


Question X is asked that requires implied claim Y to be accepted before question X can be answered.


Example #1:


How many times per day do you beat your wife?


As far as I can tell, a Kafka trap follows the same logical form as a complex question. Both of these fallacies imply claims that aren’t pre-established and require acceptance of the accusation before a question can be answered.


Understanding how manipulative complex questions function can help a person reduce self-disturbance. For instance, if I was asked by a podcast host about alleged abusiveness or aggressiveness with clients, I could recognize the fallacy inherent in the question rather than unproductively reacting to my irrational belief about the inquiry.


Now that you know more about how not to disturb yourself when someone tortures the complex question fallacy when interacting with you, you can alter the manner in which you respond to the individual. If you’d like to know more about how not to upset yourself, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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