Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Texas Sharp Shooter Fallacy

The Texas sharp shooter fallacy is when differences in data are ignored in order to emphasize the similarities in data. Basically this puts some meaning into sometimes completely uncorrelated data. This can sometimes result in a false conclusion. The name of this fallacy comes from an old joke about a farmer who shoots his shot gun at the side of a barn and then paints a target around his closest shots and claims that he is a "sharp shooter". One example of this fallacy would be  an online dating website. Sometimes people take incredibly detailed and long surveys in order to find a good match. These surveys can sometimes be up to over 100 questions long. The problem with some dating websites is that while matching up on 17 questions may seem like a lot, the "match makers" are forgetting about the 83 other questions that the two daters did not match up on. This is a Texas sharp shooter fallacy because the data in which the two online daters are different is ignored in order to emphasize that data in which they match. They are creating  'significant data' out of mostly uncorrelated data. While this can create "more matches" for people and short term happiness, this can also lead to dissatisfaction when the a dater goes on an actual date with a person and they realize that they are not really that great of a match. For online daters, this type of fallacy can waste time and money!
The Texas sharp shooter fallacy is a problem within the real world because creating false conclusions leads people into believing things that are not necessarily the whole truth. This can be bad when these types of "findings" are reported to the masses. When people are not given the entire truth, ignorance and unproductive conversations occur, which is damaging to our society.

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