Target Fixation and the Monte Carlo fallacy

Michael E. Kirkpatrick ·

It started with a Tweet from Paul Graham:

Something I explained to my 11 yo: When your brain tricks you, it’s often because it’s following a rule that made sense for most of our evolution. (The examples we were talking about were target fixation and the Monte Carlo fallacy.)

Target fixation is straightforward in that it means more or less what it sounds like it means. From Wikipedia: “Target fixation is an attentional phenomenon observed in humans in which an individual becomes so focused on an observed object (be it a target or hazard) that they inadvertently increase their risk of colliding with the object.”

Okay, so how does that play into the Monte Carlo fallacy and what is the Monte Carlo fallacy?

The gambler’s fallacy, also known as the Monte Carlo fallacy or the fallacy of the maturity of chances, is the erroneous belief that if a particular event occurs more frequently than normal during the past it is less likely to happen in the future (or vice versa), when it has otherwise been established that the probability of such events does not depend on what has happened in the past.

Again, thank you Wikipedia authors for that definition of the Monte Carlo fallacy.

Sounds like Paul had a great conversation with his 11 year old.