The Loaded Question fallacy occurs when a question is asked that contains an assumption or presupposition that has not been proven or accepted by all parties involved. The question is “loaded” with this assumption, thereby cornering the respondent into a position they may not agree with. Answering the question without addressing the assumption can unfairly push the conversation in a direction that favors the questioner’s point of view.
Imagine a political debate where one candidate asks the other, “When are you going to stop lying to the public?”
In this instance, the question contains the loaded assumption that the other candidate has been lying to the public. Answering the question without first challenging this assumption would put the respondent in a difficult position. If they attempt to answer directly, they may implicitly accept the claim that they have been lying, which might not be the case.
The best way to address a loaded question is often to challenge the underlying assumption before proceeding to answer, if an answer is appropriate at all. For instance, the respondent could say, “Your question assumes that I’ve been lying, which is not the case. Would you like to rephrase it?”
By doing so, they can dismantle the loaded question and steer the conversation back to more neutral and fair grounds.