Foxes more accurate than hedgehogs, philip tetlock

Social psychologist, worked on prediction accuracy for 20+ years, with a focus on public policy.

Foxes, good at many things
Hedgehog, good at one thing.

60% of people are in the middle of the spectrum, with 20% in each of the extremes.

Hedgehogs see the world from a strong idealogical point of view, and attempt to explain the world from this framework (i.e. free markets are THE answer).
Foxes see much more nuance, and take the bits that work from contrasting ideas (free markets work, but so do govnt- services).

Foxes as individuals have more accurate predictions, but with more hedging and nuance.
Hedgehogs have more absolute predictions, which are generally wrong.

Thus a fox as an individual is already the wisdom of the crowd, while the predictive accuracy of a crowd of hedgehogs is markedly better than that of a single hhog.

None of them predict much better than simple stochastic processes (i.e. mean reviersion, or 2-4 step ARMA, or continum)

But as people, the game is not played to be accurate. Hedgehogs, with their stronger sense of certainty, get more attention. People don’t care if you are accurate, they want a simple statement and a compelling story. Mix that, and you win, even if events don’t bear you out.

And if they don’t, you can always use the counterfactual defense (yes, but imagine how much worse/better if would have been if they hadn’t/had taken my advice)

Because the real world doesn’t give you a control group.


Posted on March 12, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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