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Distilling the Wisdom of Crowds: Prediction Markets versus Prediction Polls

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Pavel D. Atanasov
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Psychologists typically measure beliefs and preferences using self-reports, whereas economists are much more likely to infer them from behavior. Prediction markets appear to be a victory for the economic approach, having yielded more accurate probability estimates than opinion polls or experts for a wide variety of events, all without ever asking for self-reported beliefs. We conduct the most direct comparison to date of prediction markets to simple self-reports using a within-subject design. Our participants traded on the likelihood of geopolitical events. Each time they placed a trade, they first had to report their belief that the event would occur on a 0-100 scale. When previously validated aggregation algorithms were applied to self-reported beliefs, they were at least as accurate as prediction-market prices in predicting a wide range of geopolitical events. Furthermore, the combination of approaches was significantly more accurate than prediction-market prices alone, indicating that self-reports contained information that the market did not efficiently aggregate. Combining measurement techniques across behavioral and social sciences may have greater benefits than previously thought.
Pavel D. Atanasov
added 2 research items
We report the results of the first large-scale, long-term, experimental test between two crowdsourcing methods: prediction markets and prediction polls. More than 2,400 participants made forecasts on 261 events over two seasons of a geopolitical prediction tournament. Forecasters were randomly assigned to either prediction markets (continuous double auction markets) in which they were ranked based on earnings, or prediction polls in which they submitted probability judgments, independently or in teams, and were ranked based on Brier scores. In both seasons of the tournament, prices from the prediction market were more accurate than the simple mean of forecasts from prediction polls. However, team prediction polls outperformed prediction markets when forecasts were statistically aggregated using temporal decay, differential weighting based on past performance, and recalibration. The biggest advantage of prediction polls was at the beginning of long-duration questions. Results suggest that prediction polls with proper scoring feedback, collaboration features, and statistical aggregation are an attractive alternative to prediction markets for distilling the wisdom of crowds. This paper was accepted by Uri Gneezy, behavioral economics.