The Zen of Arsenal and the Conjunction Fallacy


Enlightenment hit me last Tuesday night as I was walking home along Highway 356 past the new 7-Eleven across the road from the Kounoyama fire station. I’d been listening to the You Are Not So Smart podcast which delights in pointing out logical fallacies. I’d just finished listening to the one about the Conjunction Fallacy, and boy do I have a problem committing that one.

The idea is that you think one thing is less likely than two or more things being true when in fact, logically, two things being true at the same time is by definition less likely than one thing being true. You got that?

I didn’t. Until I thought about it in terms of books.

If I write a murder mystery, it potentially appeals to all murder mystery fans. But if I write a murder mystery set in Japan with a female sleuth as the protagonist, then you’d think it’s appealing to more people (murder mystery fans plus Japanophiles plus fans of female sleuths). Yay, so my book will possibly be appealing to three groups of people, not just one.


But it’s more likely I’m committing the Conjunction Fallacy. The book isn’t attractive to three groups so much as a subset of murder mystery readers: only people who like murder mysteries set in Japan with female sleuths. In other words, adding more conditions doesn’t widen appeal, it reduces it.

But then that doesn’t explain  The Zen of Ranieri, my adult colouring book celebrating Leicester City Football Club winning last season’s English Premier League. Featuring traditional Japanese stencil art. And sketches of players celebrating after scoring. That you can colour in. If you are an adult. Who likes colouring in, and football, and LCFC in particular.

But it’s my best-selling title, despite having a publicity budget of zero.

So I thought I’d try another. The Zen of Arsenal is here. But I can only recommend it if you are an Arsenal fan, an adult, into Japanese stencil art, enjoy contemplating the wisdom of sportsmen and have your own set of coloured pencils. Unless the Conjunction Fallacy doesn’t apply.

I’ll let you know.