What is the red herring fallacy?

This may be done intentionally or unintentionally. A red herring is often used in movies, television, and literature.

One of the numerous logical fallacies you may come across in essays, speeches, opinion pieces, and even casual conversations is the red herring fallacy, which is an effort to divert attention from the issue at hand and place it on something unrelated.

You've undoubtedly heard of red herrings being used in debates. You may have even used them yourself, consciously or unconsciously. Since they are so prevalent in human communication, logical fallacies can be simple to overlook. However, if you are aware of them, you can see them in your work and correct them before they weaken your arguments.

What is the red herring fallacy?

A red herring is a deceptive remark, query, or argument used to divert attention from the subject at hand.

A red herring is not a true fish species. For a very long time, the most typical explanation for this expression was that kippers, which are cured herrings with reddish flesh and a strong flavour, were used to educate hunting dogs to follow scent trails. Etymologists Gerald Cohen and Robert Scott Ross presented their findings in 2008, demonstrating that the phrase's early uses were in a way for teaching horses—not dogs—to become used to the confusion and conflicting aromas that surround a hunting party.


The purpose of a red herring is to distract the reader or listener from the actual issue being discussed in a conversation or piece of writing. This isn’t always for nefarious purposes—sometimes, it’s a literary strategy used to keep readers in suspense. But for the purposes of this post, we’ll be focusing on the red herring fallacy as it’s used in rhetoric. You can also download our app from the playstore or visit our website.