POLITICS
04/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pundits Wrong, All The Time, About Everything: Research

Hey kids? Did you ever get the sinking feeling that all those pundits -- or as Sarah Palin calls them, "pundints" -- that you see on the teevee were basically wrong about everything, maybe all the time? Of course you did! And good news! You suspicions have been confirmed, with THE MATHS.

Dovetailing off of his thoughtful review of Jonah Lehrer's book, The Decisive Moment: How the Brain Makes Up Its Mind for the Times Of London, Brian Appleyard blogs:

I didn't mention the findings of Philip Tetlock at Berkeley. He studied pundits and discovered they were, to a rough approximation, always wrong when making predictions. He took 284 pundits and asked them questions about the future. Their performance was worse than chance. With three possible answers, they were right less than 33 per cent of the time. A monkey chucking darts would have done better. This is consoling. More consoling still is Tetlock's further finding that the more certain a pundit was, the more likely he was to be wrong. Their problem being that they couldn't self-correct, presumably because they'd invested so much of their personality and self-esteem in a specific view. (That makes me think of so many people, almost everybody, in fact.)

Tetlock said: 'The dominant danger remains hubris, the vice of closed-mindedness, of dismissing dissonant possibilites too quickly.'

To be sure, I suspect that Bill Kristol and Thomas Friedman are combining to bring the average success rate down, and I'm pretty sure John McLaughlin should be, at this point, reclassified from "pundit" to "coot." Nevertheless, this is sort of why when I have a pundit show of my own (which I remind you will probably be called "THE JASON LINKINS THROWING LIVE TIGERS AT THAT IDIOT BEN NELSON HOUR") one of the spots at the roundtable will be reserved for the drunkest person I can find at the nearest off-track betting parlor. I expect they will do very well, prognostications-wise, and shall, in any event, be allowed to help me throw the live tigers.