You’re reading What They Said, a project by Chris Gallo since 2014.

Philip Tetlock


Philip Tetlock wrote Superforecasting with Dan Gardner, and they share how to get better at the skill of predicting the future. He also runs Good Judgement on how to make better decisions.

This is a good interview and conversation hosted by Wharton. It helped to understand a couple points by listening to Tetlock explain them. The book has a lot of examples. It’s dense, but this is a helpful conversation to reinfoce the key points of the book.

Fox or hedgehog 11:15

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

You can think of hedgehogs ind debates over political and economic issues as people who have a big ideological vision. Tom Friedman might be animated by a vision of say globalization or the world is flat.

Libertarians are animated by the vision that there are free market solutions for the vast majority of problems that beset us. There are people on the left that see the need for major state intervention to address various inequities. There are enviromentalists that think we’re on the cusp of some apocolypse of some sort.

So, you have people that are animated by a vision. Their forecasts are informed, largely, by that vision.

Whereas the foxes tend to be more eclectic, they tend to pick and choose their ideas from a variety of schools of thought. They might be a little bit enviromentalist, a little bit libertarian. They might be a little bit socialist, and a little bit hawkish on national security issues.

They blend things in unusual ways, and they’re harder to classify politically.

In the early work, we found that foxes who are more eclectic in their style of thinking were better forecasters than the hedgehogs.

In the later work, we found something similar. We found people that score high on psychological measures of active open-mindedness and need of cognition, those who scored high on those personality variables, tended to do quite a bit better as forecasters.


Confidence 25:25

We take our cues about whether someone knows what he or she is talking about from how confident he or she seems to be. And the more confident, the more likely you’re going to be able to blender-bust your way through the conversation.

That’s a problem.

It suggests people need to think a little more carefully when they make appraisals of confidence.

Not rely as heavily as they do as what we call the confidence heuristic. It is true that confidence is somewhat correlated with accuracy. It’s also possible for manipulative human beings to use that heuristic and turn us into money pumps.


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