Friday, May 31, 2013

Confident or Correct: the pundits

Apocalyptic fiction is arguably a project, if not a prediction, of the future.  It should at least relate in some fashion to the present if there is going to some sort of argument for relevance.  The connection can be rather tenuous.
Pundits, people who are in the business of informing the public toward a viewpoint, are supposed to be very much on the mark.  If they are not always predicting, they are usually warning.
There are more than a few apocalyptic pundits out there.
How relevant is reality to their popularity?

For Pundits, It's Better to Be Confident Than Correct
Science Daily, 28 May 2013 (hat tip: MR)
[T]wo Washington State University economics students have demonstrated that it simply doesn't pay as much for a pundit to be accurate as it does to be confident. It's one thing to be a good pundit, but another to be popular.
"In a perfect world, you want to be accurate and confident," says Jadrian Wooten. "If you had to pick, being confident will get you more followers, get you more demand."
Note, that there isn't a negative correlation.  Pundits aren't less accurate  the more popular they are.  It's just that it is beside the point.
Note that this has been shown to be true of pundits close cosines, the investment advisor.  In general, the success of investment advisors falls within the general bell curve of randomness.  Relative to each other (an important distinction) there is little evidence for a skill deferential.  Survival bias and marketing go a long way toward obscuring this point. The future is hard to predict.
In the case of our apocalyptic pundits, it is even harder.  Unless they make some sort of hard date prediction, the apocalypse only comes along every so often.  So a cross check of prediction credentials is a little difficult.


PioneerPreppy said...

I am more partial to the ones who present both sides or at least important parts of both and then kinda weigh them. I am sure I am in a minority though.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: Commenters/pundits who act as if life was about tradeoffs and difficult decisions, don't get asked back.