Why Are We Overstating Magnitude of 'Crisis'?

The Birmingham Post (England), May 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Why Are We Overstating Magnitude of 'Crisis'?


Caption in here If you boil it down to basics, there are three ways the property market can go: things will get better, they will get worse, or they will stay the same.

But if you turn on the TV or read the trade press, it's rarely that simple.

Foretelling the future is an art, not a science, yet somehow we are giving increasing credence to the views of individual columnists and commentators who rarely get paid for their so-called 'expert' opinions.

Philip Tetlock, author of Expert Political Judgment carried out a 20-year study into the accuracy of expert forecasts in social sciences.

Regardless of academic field, practical experience, gender or political persuasion, he found so-called 'experts' made poor forecasters.

The 'chimp strategy' of randomly predicting whether things will go up, down or maintain their equilibrium, matched the best the experts could do.

The truth is, extreme forecasting makes for better headlines and soundbites.

No-one wants to be caught sitting on the fence. The danger is these exaggerated views can become accepted as fact.

On the day of writing, a scan of the websites of the national broadsheet and tabloid press reveals the liberal use of the word ''crisis'' in relation to anything from the euro, indebtedness, unemployment, male obesity and the demise of Rangers football club.

Perhaps fittingly for these times, the word ''crisis'' emanates from Greece.

According to the Oxford dictionary, a crisis is ''a time of intense difficulty or danger'.

Are things really that bad? Maybe if you are an overweight Rangers fan with no job and a maxed-out credit card. Generally though, probably not. But it is this kind of language and viewpoint that helps contribute to the general gloom and dampening of sentiment.

If we accept that individual forecasts are, by and large, fiction, where can we find more educated guesswork about the prospects for our sector? …

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Why Are We Overstating Magnitude of 'Crisis'?
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