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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Psychological Strategies for Winning a Geopolitical Forecasting Tournament

  • Author(s): Mellers, B
  • Ungar, L
  • Baron, J
  • Ramos, J
  • Gurcay, B
  • Fincher, K
  • Scott, SE
  • Moore, D
  • Atanasov, P
  • Swift, SA
  • Murray, T
  • Stone, E
  • Tetlock, PE
  • et al.

Five university-based research groups competed to recruit forecasters, elicit their predictions, and aggregate those predictions to assign the most accurate probabilities to events in a 2-year geopolitical forecasting tournament. Our group tested and found support for three psychological drivers of accuracy: training, teaming, and tracking. Probability training corrected cognitive biases, encouraged forecasters to use reference classes, and provided forecasters with heuristics, such as averaging when multiple estimates were available. Teaming allowed forecasters to share information and discuss the rationales behind their beliefs. Tracking placed the highest performers (top 2% from Year 1) in elite teams that worked together. Results showed that probability training, team collaboration, and tracking improved both calibration and resolution. Forecasting is often viewed as a statistical problem, but forecasts can be improved with behavioral interventions. Training, teaming, and tracking are psychological interventions that dramatically increased the accuracy of forecasts. Statistical algorithms (reported elsewhere) improved the accuracy of the aggregation. Putting both statistics and psychology to work produced the best forecasts 2 years in a row. © The Author(s) 2014.

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