Superforecasters (noun): masters in the art and science of prediction. Wharton professor Philip Tetlock and Columnist Dan Gardner have learned a lot about ‘superforecasters’ through interviews, intelligence tests, and close analysis of their work habits, both alone and in teams. Possessing a talent for forecasting can be beneficial to aspects of everyone’s life, i.e., managing finances, choosing a school or career, voting, or simply planning the week’s meals. But what makes some people so good at forecasting? Tetlock and Gardner create a rough composite portrait to shed insight on the mind of the model superforecaster.
In philosophic outlook, superforecasters tend to be:
Cautious: Nothing is certain
Humble: Reality is infinitely complex
Nondeterministic: What happens is not meant to be and does not have to happen
In their abililites and thinking styles, superforecasters are:
Actively open-minded: Beliefs are hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be protected
Intelligent and knowledgeable, with a “need for cognition”: Intellectually curious, enjoy puzzles and mental challenges
Reflective: Introspective and self-critical
Numerate: Comfortable with numbers
In their methods of predicting, superforecasters tend to be:
Pragmatic: Not wedded to any idea or agenda
Analytical: Capable of stepping back from the tip-of-your-nose perspective and considering other views
Dragonfly-eyed: Value diverse views and synthesize them into their own
Probabilistic: Judge using many grades of maybe
Thoughtful updaters: When facts change, they change their minds
Good intuitive psychologists: Aware of the value of checking thinking for cognitive and emotional biases
In their work ethic:
A growth mindset: Believe it’s possible to get better
Grit: Determined to keep at it however long it takes
Do you see yourself in the model? Do you possess the characteristics of a ‘superforecaster’?
About the Authors Philip E. Tetlock is the Annenberg University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and holds appointments in the psychology and political science departments and the Wharton School of Business. He is also the author of Expert Political Judgment (a paradigm-changing work that remains one of the most highly cited papers in social science) and Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics. Internationally recognized for his work, he is the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson and Robert E. Lane Awards, both from the American Political Science Association, the National Academy of Sciences Award for Behavior Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War from the National Academy of Sciences, the winner of the AAAS Prize for Behavioral Science Research, and the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
Dan Gardner is an award-winning journalist and the author of Risk and Future Babble: Why Pundits are Hedgehogs and Foxes Know Best. He has received the National Newspaper Award, the Michener Award, the Amnesty International Canadian Media Award, the Canadian Association of Journalists Award, and the Canadian Science Writers Association Award for best science book.
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