Are You Sure
The picture above is of an old pair of Churchill fins; the fin of choice by bodysurfers.
This pair has seen better days and is now decorative. Which one is the leftie and which one is the righty?
Answer: the left foot is hanging on the left and the right foot is hanging on the right.
At first glance it might look the opposite because some think the big toe would fit next to the longest part of the fin.
When I purchased a pair of Churchills in 1980 I made the mistake of putting the fins on the wrong foot before I remembered to pause and think.
Have you ever noticed that the people who predict out comes the loudest and are most sure of themselves are often proved wrong? We see it in all types of endeavors; certainly in politics on blogs, TV and radio.
In 2005 Tetlock published his findings in his book, Expert political judgment: How good is it? How can we know?
He analyzed the predictions made by over 280 professional experts. He gave each a series of professionally relevant real life situations and asked them to make probability predictions pertaining to three possible outcomes (often in the form of things will: stay the same, get better, or get worse). Further, Tetlock interviewed each expert to evaluate the thought processes used to draw their conclusions.
Almost twenty years later and with the wisdom of hindsight relative to the predictions, Tetlock analyzed the accuracy of over 82,000 predictions.
Results: the pundits performed worse than random chance in predicting outcomes within their supposed areas of expertise.
These experts were able to accurately predict the future less than 33% of the time and non-specialists did equally as well. And to make matters worse, the most famous pundits were the least accurate. A clear pattern emerged – confidence in one’s predictions was highly correlated with error.
Tetlock noted that they were essentially blinded by their certainty.
Jonah Lehrer in How We Decide wrote of Tetlock’s study and stated “When pundits were convinced that they were right, they ignored any brain areas that implied that they might be wrong.
This suggests that one of the best ways to distinguish genuine from phony expertise is to look at how a person responds to dissonant data. Does he or she reject the data out of hand? Perform elaborate mental gymnastics to avoid admitting error? He also suggested that people should “ignore those commentators that seem too confident or self assured”
Jonah Lehrer suggests that this error is actually played out as one cherry picks which feelings to acknowledge and which to ignore. Lehrer noted: “Instead of trusting their gut feelings, they found ways to disregard the insights that contradicted their ideologies… Instead of encouraging the arguments inside their heads, these pundits settled on answers and then came up with reasons to justify those answers.”
My advice to myself // teach or share // be healthy // be kind.
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