- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

‘Let’s see what that data says’. The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy lives on.

Probably we will never be short of data anymore. We even have now Big Data, with big capitals, as a way to express the colossal amount at our disposal. There is no single definition of Big Data [1], but we know that we have unprecedented access to it.

How to interpret it, how to use it, is a key 21st Century skill! It is unlikely that we all become suddenly proficient at this, so as we have more data, we will rely more and more on people who will interpret for us. An army of interpreters will never compensate for the individual skill of Critical Thinking. Today, more than ever, avoiding fallacies and biases become the oxygen of the mind.

Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy goes like this: The shooter shoots, and shoots, and shoots. Then he sees a cluster of hits, and draws a target around them. He is therefore an incredibly skilful shooter.

Don’t we do this all the time? (not you of course). We cluster things and then we draw conclusions. Perhaps there was no hypothesis, as there was no target for the Texan shooter before he drew it, but there is one now, and it is confirmed.

Clustering and seeing patterns is something that the brain and the mind do well, so it is just natural that both invite us to see them. We have plenty of data around, and plenty of facts (numerical, social, organizational) waiting for an hypothesis that has already been confirmed.

I challenge you not to find an example in your immediate business environment in the next 5 minutes.