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In important conflicts such as wars and labor-management disputes, people typically rely on the judgment of experts to predict the decisions that will be made. We compared the accuracy of 106 forecasts by experts and 169 forecasts by novices about eight real conflicts. The forecasts of experts who used their unaided judgment were little better than those of novices. Moreover, neither group's forecasts were much more accurate than simply guessing. The forecasts of experienced experts were no more accurate than the forecasts of those with less experience. The experts were nevertheless confident in the accuracy of their forecasts. Speculating that consideration of the relative frequency of decisions across similar conflicts might improve accuracy, we obtained 89 sets of frequencies from novices instructed to assume there were 100 similar situations. Forecasts based on the frequencies were no more accurate than 96 forecasts from novices asked to pick the single most likely decision. We conclude that expert judgment should not be used for predicting decisions that people will make in conflicts. When decision makers ask experts for their opinions, they are likely to overlook other, more useful, approaches.
Date Posted: 13 June 2007
This document has been peer reviewed.