Expert Political Judgment | Philip E. Tetlock

Summary of: Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? – New Edition
By: Philip E. Tetlock


The book ‘Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? – New Edition’ by Philip E. Tetlock delves into the complex world of expert opinions in politics, society, and business. The summary unravels the standards that can be used to judge the validity and reliability of these expert opinions, particularly in cases where answers are not black or white. It discusses the impact of beliefs on the assessment of expert judgment, the correspondence theory to evaluate expertise, and the fascinating distinction between ‘hedgehogs’ and ‘foxes’ as two different thinking styles that affect judgment and forecasting abilities. The book also touches upon scenario writing, how to assess expert predictions, and the misdirection in forecasting due to various factors.

Assessing Expert Opinion

People rely heavily on expert opinions in various fields, including politics, society, and business. It can be challenging to determine which experts have good judgment, especially in political arguments, as experts have their way of explaining history. However, you can evaluate expert opinions using the “correspondence theory,” which examines whether their ideas are consistent with the real world. To assess an expert’s ability to make accurate forecasts about objective events, you can consider whether they choose easy-to-predict events, their accuracy rate, and whether their verbal predictions can be quantified. Additionally, an expert’s ability to adapt their belief systems to new conditions is crucial. Nonetheless, luck can also play a role in separating success and failure.

The Skepticism Surrounding Experts and Predictions

The world is too complex to make accurate predictions, according to ontological skeptics, while psychological skeptics believe that our minds are not capable of making predictions. People have an innate need to control their environment and often struggle with randomness and unpredictability. Experts are necessary in modern society, but their accuracy is limited, and they tend to become overconfident. However, people are more forgiving of officials who consult with acknowledged experts, even if their policies fail.

The Thinking Styles of Hedgehogs and Foxes

The book explores philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s categorization of people as hedgehogs and foxes based on their thinking and problem-solving approaches. Hedgehogs have a centralized worldview and a closed belief system, while foxes process information without a guiding moral or artistic landmark. Although most people fall on a continuum between these two categories, each thinking style has distinct differences in judgment. Foxes have better judgment due to their balanced thinking style, while hedgehogs seek new evidence to support their original thoughts, which can make them more pessimistic or optimistic. Foxes’ forecasts are more accurate than hedgehogs’, but the media still prefers to quote hedgehogs since their conclusions sound more dramatic. Moreover, the public’s general worldview influences how experts see the world, making it difficult for them to accept new facts that challenge their beliefs. Experts can also convince themselves that they can predict events and outcomes that they clearly cannot predict, showing the same reasoning style as the general population. Hedgehogs are often less accurate at forecasting complex social perceptions and are prone to hindsight bias.

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