What is a loaded question?


What is a loaded question?

In: 95

Have you stopped beating your wife?


you can say yes, which acknowledges that you used to beat her, or no, which acknowledges that you still do

It essentially means the asker of the question does so in manner which steers the responder towards a desired answer. The loaded language of the question almost forces the person responding to have to give an answer that the asker is looking for. It generally implies some kind of assumption that may or may not actually be true as well.

An example would be if a reporter asked a politician “why did you do it?”, theres an implication that the politician did something, even though they have yet to be proven guilty. The question is “loaded” because the reporter is working in an assumption of guilt on the part of the politician.

A loaded question is one that presumes a particular answer by its phrasing. A famous example is “Do you still beat your wife?” Whether the person answers yes or no, you can accuse them at least of beating their wife in the past even if they never did.

This is also very popular in political discussions. “Why is Biden allowing gas prices to go so high?” The answer is not as simple as giving a reason because it could have little or nothing to do with him.

A question that assumes an unproven assertion is true.

The classic example is “When did you stop beating your wife?” The question assumes thay the person being asked was beating their wife.

Imagine laying down a trap card from Yu-Gi-Oh, but disguised as an innocent question. The ‘loaded’ comes from the idea that the question is worded specifically to corner the recipient or force an incorrect answer.

Used often in interrogation, whether political or personal.

A question that has no good answer. The other commenter has a perfect example so I won’t use another one. Both options are bad and or not what you actually mean.

It’s a question by which the answer maybe given in a couple of different ways. One possible answer could hurt feelings or be misleading or result in a falsehood.

“Do these jeans make my bum look huge?” The answer could be a simple no, or do you want my opinion about the jeans and fit or your bum in those jean or just your bum? Do you need validation about your style choices or reassurance that I still find you attractive…?

See…? Loaded

In addition to the other answers, I’ve also heard it the phrase in reference to a question with a lot of heavy background necessary to understand it. “Why does homelessness exist,” for example, or “what happens after we die”. Answering it fully would require a 5-page essay with citations, so it’s not easily answered in a quick dinner conversation.

To clarify, this is not necessarily the CORRECT way to use the phrase ‘loaded question’, but a lot of people say loaded question and mean this.

It is a question that is asked not to get a straightforward answer but to instead push some point of view onto all the listeners.

A lawyer in a courtroom can ask – “do you do drugs?”, and the defendant can respond with a yes or no.

However, if the lawyers instead asks “tell me, do you enjoy doing drugs?” there is no way to answer without avoiding the question entirely, and now the thought of you doing drugs is in the jury’s head.

It’s a trick question. A question based on a presumption of guilt or falsehood.

Simple example: During a trial before anyone has been found guilty, someone may ask you, “Do you think he’s guilty?”

Simple question, ‘No’ means you do not think he is guilty.

Now, someone may ask you the loaded question, “Do you think they should convict this criminal?”

If you think he’s innocent, but simply answer ‘No’, you are still inadvertently admitting he is, in fact, a criminal.

Why are three of the answers “Have you stopped beating your wife?” That raises eyebrows on its own…

A comparison may be useful.
Loaded dice are dice which are loaded heavier on one side, to make it more likely that side will face down. If you want to roll a 6 every time, you would load the 1 side of the die.

In the same way, a loaded question will influence the person answering towards a certain answer. Many examples in other comments

Another way to think of them is “Complex Questions”

Basically, It’s a question that holds an assumption.

An example would be: “Are you voting for that idiot, John”. If you say “yes” to this question, you agree to 2 things:

– You are voting for John

– John is an idiot

It’s a question that is “loaded” with an additional assumption that you might not agree with.

Another common example in philosophy classrooms is “Have you stopped beating your dog”. This one comes with the assumption that you were beating your dog in the past.

Replace “Dog” with “Wife”, and you can see why courtrooms hate loaded questions; they can trick you into agreeing with things that you don’t actually agree with


So do you still have sex with a donkey when you think no one is around?

Aside from your accomplice, is there anyone who can testify to your location that night?

This question assumes you have an accomplice and thus you commited a crime together.

If you said:

“No, I didn’t see anyone that night.” You’re essentially admitting to having an accomplice, and thus admitted your role in a crime.

“Yes, I met Bob for dinner at 7” You’re admitting to having an accomplice, maybe you had dinner at 7 but hooked up with your accomplice later or staged this alibi as part of your plan.

“She wasn’t my accomplice” so now you acted alone but you’ll be rebuked to answer the question about any other witnesses.

The premise of the question damns you either way because it’s more than a Yes/No option, loaded with connotations and innuendo.

“Can anyone testify to your location that night?

As opposed to

“Did anyone see you break into the museum with Ms. San Diego?”.

A loaded question is a question you can’t answer on its own terms without going along with an assumption you could potentially want to dispute. So “when was the most recent time you returned from Mexico” would be a loaded question if you haven’t told the person asking it that you’ve been to Mexico.

It’s a question like “Why do you support communist wind power being forced down our throats?”. It includes descriptors that aren’t necessarily true, and requires you to expend a lot of effort to set that facts straight.

You know how some menus have a “Loaded” baked potato? Not just a normal baked potato, but one smothered in sour cream and chives and bacon?

Like that, except its a question smothered with sour cream and chives and bacon.

LOL, I was just thinking about “Full Metal Jacket” and the scene where the Drill Instructor asks the recruit “Where are you from?” “Sir, Texas, Sir!” “GAWDAMMED! Only two things from from Texas! Queers and Steer! Which one are you?”