Red herring

From Teflpedia

A red herring is an item in the text that is deliberately intended to mislead (confuse comprehension).

These are quite common in testing, especially listening comprehension tests. For example, the question may be "What do Alice and Bob plan to do tomorrow?", with the potential answers (1) go to the park (2) go to the cinema and (3) go to the supermarket. The test takers then hear the text, a conversation between Alice and Bob:

  • Alice: "Shall we go to the supermarket tomorrow?"
  • Bob: "The supermarket? But it's my day off? I don't want to go to the supermarket. How about going to the park?
  • Alice: "The park? But the weather forecast is for rain."
  • Bob: "OK, let's go to the cinema instead."
  • Alice: "Yes, I want to watch a movie."

Of the three places mentioned, "supermarket" and "the park" are red herrings; while "the cinema" is the correct answer.

Red herrings are also often found in some genres of fiction, particularly detective fiction.