Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hedgehogs at the White House

Via Dan Drezner an article from the Wall Street - The Numbers Guy (free)--on Professor Tetlock's book, Expert Political Judgments. He used Isaiah Berlin's categories:
"Foxes [those who know many small things] outperformed hedgehogs [those who know one big thing] in nearly every measure, Prof. Tetlock said. That suggested that those with flexible thinking were better equipped to make forecasts.

Foxes were better, by about three times, at adapting their predictions to world events they hadn't expected. This relates to another failing of hedgehogs: they tended to be more likely to engage in 'hindsight bias.' In other words, hedgehogs were more likely to err in their own favor when asked to recall past predictions -- and if they couldn't recall their own mistakes, how could they be expected to learn from them?"
See Louis Menand in The New Yorker for a fuller discussion, including the points that people make their information fit their preconceptions, discounting opposing information, and that the premium is on "experts" to offer new and different predictions. But hedgehogs can be spectacularly right (particularly scientists).

IMHO our President is a hedgehog (most politicians are, regardless of ideology, although Bill Clinton could not have been), so it's not surprising that it takes a while for bad news to sink in.

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