The Texas sharpshooter fallacy was one of the options that I found to be extremely interesting, and it was something I hadn’t really ever thought about until I did some research on it. This fallacy, according to Angi English is described as, “When people take randomness into account when determining cause and effect. People tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when you want a random event to have meaning.” (English, 2016)
This fallacy was named after a story that was created as an example to better understand the theory itself. The story starts with a cowboy that is shooting holes into the side of a barn. He shoots many times at the barn, and after a while he has made quite a few holes in the side of it. Next, the cowboy takes a paintbrush and paints a bull’s eye on and around a group of bullets that makes it appear that he is a much better shot than he actually is. When he paints this bull’s eye it gives a type of order to the randomness of the shots he took. Another way to describe this fallacy is that humans desire to find a sense of meaning in chaos. We as humans want to find meaning in life and this is a way that we try to achieve that.
The way that this fallacy is a flaw in reasoning is because, there isn’t actually any pattern or real association with the things we want to associate. What is really happening is our brain is seeking an order or pattern and we assign meaning to it after we noticed the coincidence. One of the best ways we did most of learning as kids is by finding patterns in different things, such as learning a language. There are patterns in many things, but when it comes to randomness we are only tricking ourselves into the meaning.
One of the best examples to explain flaw in the reasoning of this fallacy was used by Angi English. Her example has to do with the meaning you look for when you first start dating someone. When you are first discovering new things about the person you are dating you are going to find many similarities and many differences. You might find that blue is both of your favorite color, which is by random chance. You may find out that both of your mother’s are named Susan, which is random. Lastly, maybe you find out that you both have always wanted to move to California when you get older. All of these things are coincidental and are completely random, however, in our heads we want the relationship to work well so we tell ourselves that these things are signs and it was meant to be. Another way to point this out is that we don’t focus on all of the differences we also have. The reason we don’t focus on those is because they don’t have any meaning toward the thing we want to achieve, fate.
English, A. (2016, 4/26/16). The texas sharpshooter fallacy. Message posted to https://medium.com/homeland-security/the-texas-sharpshooter-fallacy-8439e3e1173c#.sgdx1zs29