Saturday, March 3, 2012

What is Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy?

To explain Texas Sharpshooter policy requires telling a story.


There's a sharpshooter in Texas. He has a lot of targets on display, a cluster of shots all around the bullseye. Everybody was awed.

Until someone noticed that on most of these targets, none of the bullseye was in the exact center, the way a real target bullseye should be.

So one night he went to secretly observe the sharpshooter doing target practice.

As it turned out, the sharpshooter was painting the bullseye AFTER he had a cluster of shots.


SIDENOTE: accuracy, vs. precision

Most people use the two words interchangeably, when they are actually quite different.

If you can put 5 shots inside the red circle on a shooting target in a VERY tight cluster, you are both accurate, AND precise.

If you can put 5 shots 3 inches below the red circle in a tight cluster (even though you're aiming for the red circle), you are NOT accurate, but you are precise (little if any scatter)

If you can put 5 shots inside the red circle, but they're spread all over the circle (not a tight cluster), you are accurate, but NOT precise (there's scatter).


The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy is a cognitive trap where the brain chose to shift the remembered position to fit the evidence better.

For example, let's say before the election, you are asked to guess what percentage of votes will a certain candidate get.

A week after the election, you are asked about your guess. Invariably, you will give an answer that's CLOSER to the real number than your actual answer. Your memory shifted to more correspond to the "right" answer.


Scammers often rely on this to shift your position even if you don't remember doing so (and if you do remember, you'd think it was your own idea and it made perfect sense).

Why do MLMers keep joining one MLM after another?

People who studied MLM, i.e. network marketing, from the outside, often wondered why do some of the members just keep moving from one company to another, never succeeding, yet never quitting. They are sort of hung in limbo, going in circles. Those are often referred to derisively as "MLM Junkies".

But why? Why do they act as if they are "addicted" to MLM? is there such as thing as addicted to MLM, even though clearly the previous choices are failures causing the person to move on?

One possible explanation is "hindsight bias".

Hindsight bias can be best described as "convenient memory". You believe that whatever you remembered is right, even though it may be somewhat different from the truth.

Let's say, you just learned that "being nice to cops can cause them to issue you a lesser ticket when they have a choice."

If you say "I knew that", or "That's common sense" or similar response, you probably have hindsight bias, as you have assumed that you knew that all along, when you only learned it recently. (unless, of course, you actually already experienced this or learned this from some other source)

(BTW, this actually true in California, if you made a right turn at red light at a "no right turn on red" intersection)

How does it apply to serial MLMers? They probably suffer from hindsight bias, where they only remember the "good" parts about each MLM they joined, and just enough about the bad parts that caused them to quit, without a full examination of all the factors.

Then when they run into a new MLM, they don't see the "bad" parts they saw before (due to the hindsight bias), noticed all the "good" parts they liked before, and conclude this is a "better" opportunity.

As they learned more about this new business, they found a new set of "bad" parts, and eventually quit, so the cycle starts anew.

What's the eventual outcome? Only two ways this cycle will end

1) They got so good at MLM they actually succeed (very rare)
2) They learned so many different bad parts through the years, they quit MLM in disgust (vast majority)

In the meanwhile, they keep going from one MLM to another, chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and never get there.

If you are in a MLM purgatory, doomed to repeat your MLM cycle, are you trying to get out? Do you even recognize your MLM purgatory?

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