Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Texas Sharpshooter

     The Texas Sharpshooter is the name epidemiologists have given to the clustering illusion. The clustering illusion is “the intuition that random events which occur in clusters are not really random events. The illusion is due to selective thinking based on a counterintuitive but false assumption regarding statistical odds” (
 The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy was inspired by a Texas man who claimed to be a sharpshooter (hence the name). One day the man stood and fired at the side of his barn. He then proceeded to paint a bull’s-eye around the area that had the most clustered shots.

     The root of this fallacy is that it occurred when people looked at the cause before the effects and allowed the effects to fit the cause instead of the other way around. This thinking is flawed in many regards, though it is used frequently in today’s world. The first flaw in this reasoning is the simple fact that appearance is often deceiving.  The second is that the result could simply be a coincidence or luck, just because four people have won the lottery through buying tickets at Bucky’s does not mean that you will win the lottery if you buy one there, it is simply luck. The third reason is just because there is a cluster or grouping of data that points to a certain conclusion does not mean that is the actual reason. For example, you could say data shows that breast cancer is caused by birth control because a group of breast cancer patients have taken birth control in the past when the real reason for their illness is genetic. The logos of the Texas Sharpshooter appears to make sense upon first look, however upon further examination it is extremely flawed. This is fallacy is commonly associated with politicians. They use data and skew it to match the conclusion they want to argue. The clustering illusion is also utilized by lawyers. An example would be that the maid had a key and was in town during the murder and was therefore the murderer when in reality it was the butler. But the lawyer chose to ignore the facts leading to that conclusion.

 This you tube video was extremely helpful in understanding the fallacy.

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