Making Detailed Predictions Makes (Some) Predictions Worse
Social and Behavioral Sciences
In this paper, we investigate whether making detailed predictions about an event makes other predictions worse. Across 19 experiments, 10,895 participants, and 415,960 predictions about 724 professional sports games, we find that people who made detailed predictions about sporting events (e.g., how many hits each baseball team would get) made worse predictions about more general outcomes (e.g., which team would win). We rule out that this effect is caused by inattention or fatigue, thinking too hard, or a differential reliance on holistic information about the teams. Instead, we find that thinking about game-relevant details before predicting winning teams causes people to give less weight to predictive information, presumably because predicting details makes information that is relatively useless for predicting the winning team more readily accessible in memory and therefore incorporated into forecasts. Furthermore, we show that this differential use of information can be used to predict what kinds of games will and will not be susceptible to the negative effect of making detailed predictions.