Speaking on Generalizations.

When someone makes a statement that is a generalization, it can often lead to a misunderstanding of the topic at hand. Certainly one should qualify a statement by a modifier, like:

In my experience, most (generalization subject/object) (generalization premise).

Instead of something like:

(generalization subject/object) (generalization premise).

But why should one do this?

Lets take for example, cars. Some people I know are big fans of Lincoln cars. And they really love the Lincoln that they own, and the do believe that it is certainly one of the best car companies. However, this does not mean that everything that Lincoln has made is the best car in the category, even by his opinion. He will admit that there are series of cars that he likes from the same manufacturer that do not run in line with his statement about Lincoln cars. When he makes a statement like:

Lincoln cars are the best.

Then it could come to comparing one of the lesser Lincoln’s with a car of better standing, and on that point, it would not appear that Lincoln’s would be able to hold their title as being the best. If one would modify the statement with a experience phrase, like:

In my experience, Lincoln Cars are the best.

Then one has to take into account the experience of the person making the statement in relation to the object at hand. If someone were to add a further modifier of “most” to the statement, like:

In my experience, most Lincoln Cars are the best.

Then that further protects the statement from easily being challenged, because now you are able to exclude the negative examples that challenge the car.

Often generalizations are used to mark an opinion, but if a person were to take the same kind of generalization and include someone of a different race, creed, or nationality or sex, then it simply sounds like the person has a bias against that particular group. I would cite examples, but I’m afraid that it would detract from the point. If you have bias against a group, then people will doubt what you say even more, or even that your experience is fully valid, because it is already poisoned by your bias that shows through in your statements.

If one would want to prevent someone from questioning their experiences, then they should go from the general to the specific. Take for example the following statement:

Honda Accords kick ass.


The Honda Accord that I owned was good for the time that I had it and gave me little problems for the age that it was.

Certainly the first statement could be true, but obviously the second statement has the distinct difference of show that the person put some thought into what they were trying state, while leaving items that are outside their (in this case my) realm of experience.

I don’t think this means that you can never make a generalization, but I think what it shows that generalizations often lead to misunderstanding and confusion about what you are saying, and if you want to avoid such a thing, then you probably want to avoid using wide sweeping generalizations.