Anecdotal evidence

Anecdotal evidence is a factual claim relying only on personal observation, collected in a casual or non-systematic manner. The term is sometimes used in a legal context to describe certain kinds of testimony which are uncorroborated by objective, independent evidence such as notarized documentation, photographs, audio-visual recordings, etc.

When used in advertising or promotion of a product, service, or idea, anecdotal reports are often called a testimonial, which are highly regulated[1] in some jurisdictions.

When compared to other types of evidence, anecdotal evidence is generally regarded as limited in value due to a number of potential weaknesses, but may be considered within the scope of scientific method as some anecdotal evidence can be both empirical and verifiable, e.g. in the use of case studies in medicine. Other anecdotal evidence, however, does not qualify as scientific evidence, because its nature prevents it from being investigated by the scientific method. Where only one or a few anecdotes are presented, there is a larger chance that they may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases.[2][3] Similarly, psychologists have found that due to cognitive bias people are more likely to remember notable or unusual examples rather than typical examples.[4] Thus, even when accurate, anecdotal evidence is not necessarily representative of a typical experience. Accurate determination of whether an anecdote is typical requires statistical evidence.[5] Misuse of anecdotal evidence is an informal fallacy[6] and is sometimes referred to as the "person who" fallacy ("I know a person who..."; "I know of a case where..." etc.) which places undue weight on experiences of close peers which may not be typical.

In all forms of anecdotal evidence its reliability by objective independent assessment may be in doubt. This is a consequence of the informal way the information is gathered, documented, presented, or any combination of the three. The term is often used to describe evidence for which there is an absence of documentation, leaving verification dependent on the credibility of the party presenting the evidence.