An overgeneralization is a type of logical fallacy, which is a failure of reasoning. And so, that is what an overgeneralization is, a failure of reasoning.
But, more specifically, we could define it as when an author makes a claim that is so broad, it cannot be proved or disproved. So, when an author uses an overgeneralization, it’s usually to accomplish one of two motives.
The first is to create an allusion of authority. So, the author may want to make it look like they have authority, when in fact, they do not.
The second possible motive is to sway the opinion of the reader. This would be accomplished by using sensational language. And so, if the author is writing a persuasive essay, he may employ the use of overgeneralization to sway the opinion of the reader.
Now, take a look at this example right here of overgeneralization.
“Everybody knows she is a terrible teacher.”
Now, here, the author makes an assumption that cannot really be believed. It may be that most people do indeed have a negative view of the teacher, but to say that everybody feels that way is an exaggeration. Here, the author is claiming consensus when none actually exists.
Now, when a reader spots an overgeneralization like this one, they should become skeptical about the argument that is being made, because an author will often try to hide a weak or unsupported assertion behind authoritative language.
So, if you see a statement like this, and you can recognize it as an overgeneralization, know tha means that the author is probably trying to hide a weak or unsupported assertion behind authoritative language.