The Psychology of Predictions


The Psychology of Predictions

Predictions are not always accurate, even when it comes to weather forecasts; and here we thought weather guys were always right! Nancy Kim, in her book, has actually tried to prove how predictions will only be seldom correct. She is an associate professor of psychology at Northeastern University and is eagerly studying conceptual thinking, decision-making, and reasoning. Her book ‘Judgment and Decision-Making in the Lab and the World’ does include a whole part on predictions and the psychology behind this phenomenon.


On talking about predictions, she notes two types of them – intuitive and statistical predictions, depending on intuitions and data plus algorithms respectively. While predicting on, for example, geographical or atmospheric conditions, it can, more often than not, be true. However, predicting something such as elections’ results, is difficult, because of the uniqueness and unavailability of directly relevant data.


If one has to make an accurate prediction, there are some key factors one has to consider. Firstly, incorporating statistical data while predicting is crucial to include in your forecasts. Secondly, it is important to believe or rely on corrective feedback so as to properly shape your forecasts. Once you practice these key factors, you will be much better at predictions.


There is a social psychologist, Philip Tetlock, who hosts forecasting tournaments, where he gets to test people’s ability to predict stuff and events. He concluded that “the accuracy of an expert’s predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and depth of knowledge”, thus giving a false quality to the phenomenon of predictions. Based on this, Kim says that pundits do not really offer us any kind of good ideas or novel information, based on this point of view. However, she also claims that incorrect predictions do not necessarily mean the person has faulty reasoning.


There is something enjoyable that people find, in making predictions, especially non—experts, and also without any psychological point of view. This, Kim claims, gives people a psychological benefit of believing that we are actually in control of our future and our life. She said, “To make these forecasts—to conjure up mental pictures of what’s ahead—is one of the most remarkable things about being human.”


Pranjali Wakde

pranjali wakde

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