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11 Examples of Ad Hominem

Ad hominem is the practice of criticizing a person instead of their argument. This is often used in a way that can be considered manipulative or a fallacy. The following are illustrative examples of ad hominem.


Asserting that an individual has no right to an opinion due to some aspect of their identity. For example, asserting that someone with an upper class background has no right to develop theories about middle class life.


Whataboutism is an fallacy that suggests a wrong isn't wrong because of another wrong. For example, a father criticizes his daughter's study habits and the daughter retorts "what about you, you never even went to university."

Social Undermining

Insinuating negative things about a person to undermine their credibility. For example, "you're just incompetent, why don't you quit."

Appeal to Authority

Questioning your opponents authority regarding a topic. For example, "but you're not a scientist are you?"

Appeal to Motive

Questioning your opponent's motivations. For example, "you just want the project canceled so that you can go back to taking long lunches and surfing the web all day."

Appeal to Emotion

An appeal to emotion can be used to attack an individual's credibility. For example, "do you really think that a billionaire cares about people like you and your family."

Guilt by Association

Pointing out an association between a person and an institution or individual with a poor reputation. For example, "well he used to work with ________."


Applying a politically charged label to someone to try to discredit them.

False Dichotomy

Asserting a false dichotomy such as us vs them to discredit someone. For example, "I know you Americans like doing things that way but here we do things differently."

Poisoning the Well

Poisoning the well is the act of preemptively criticising someone or their character before they get a chance to speak. For example, "Larry is going to pitch an expensive systems project that will probably fail just as badly as his last three projects."

Name Calling

Ad hominem also includes abusive tactics such as name calling or inappropriately questioning someone's character without any evidence or cause.


Ad hominem is mostly a negative tactic and fallacy that is designed to create or leverage biases against a person. However, there are instances where this can be a validate argument where an individual's position or past invalidates their statements. For example, attacking a politician's record to show that they are insincere in their statements.
In addition to being potentially unethical and fallacious, ad hominem is likely to damage relationships and your credibility. It is also likely to bounce back at you where your opponent is likely to respond with ad hominem tactics of their own. As such, it can be a counterproductive habit or tactic.
Overview: Ad Hominem
The practice of criticizing a person instead of their argument.
Related Concepts

Ad Hominem

This is the complete list of articles we have written about ad hominem.
Appeal To Authority
Character Traits
False Dichotomy
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