False attribution may refer to:

Incorrect identification of source

One particular case of misattribution is the Matthew effect. A quotation is often attributed to someone more famous than the real author. This leads the quotation to be more famous, but the real author to be forgotten (see also: obliteration by incorporation and Churchillian Drift).[2]

Such misattributions may originate as a sort of fallacious argument, if use of the quotation is meant to be persuasive, and attachment to a more famous person (whether intentionally or through misremembering) would lend it more authority.

In Jewish biblical studies, an entire group of falsely-attributed books is known as the pseudepigrapha.


A fraudulent advocate may go so far as to fabricate a source in order to support a claim. For example, the "Levitt Institute" was a fake organisation created in 2009 solely for the purposes of (successfully) fooling the Australian media into reporting that Sydney was Australia’s most naive city.[3]

Contextomy (quoting out of context) is a type of false attribution.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Humbug! The skeptic’s field guide to spotting fallacies in thinking, a textbook on fallacies. "False Attribution": p. 56.
  2. ^ Mermin, N. David (2004). "Could Feynman Have Said This?". Physics Today. 57 (5): 10–11. Bibcode:2004PhT....57e..10M. doi:10.1063/1.1768652.
  3. ^ "Deception Detection Deficiency". Media Watch. 2009-09-27. Archived from the original on 2021-12-16. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  4. ^ McGlone, Matthew S. (2005). "Quoted Out of Context: Contextomy and Its Consequences". Journal of Communication. 55 (2): 330–346. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2005.tb02675.x.

Further reading