Inaccurate Forecasting of a Randomized Controlled Trial

Co-authored with Mats Ahrenshop, Saad Gulzar, and Luke Sonnet.


We report results of a forecasting experiment about a randomized controlled trial that was conducted in the field. The experiment asks Ph.D. students, faculty, and policy practitioners to forecast (1) compliance rates for the RCT and (2) treatment effects of the intervention. The forecasting experiment randomizes the order of questions about compliance and treatment effects and the provision of information that a pilot experiment was conducted which produced null results. Forecasters were excessively optimistic about treatment effects and unresponsive to item order as well as to information about a pilot. Those who declare themselves expert in the area relevant to the intervention are particularly resistant to new information that the treatment is ineffective. We interpret our results as suggesting that we should exercise caution when undertaking expert forecasting, since experts may have unrealistic expectations and may be inflexible in altering these even when provided new information. Download the full paper below.

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