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The Effects of Consistency among Simultaneous Forecasts on Weather-Related Decisions

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Abstract

People access weather forecasts from multiple sources [mobile telephone applications (“apps”), newspapers, and television] that are not always in agreement for a particular weather event. The experiment reported here investigated the effects of inconsistency among forecasts on user trust, weather-related decisions, and confidence in user decisions. In a computerized task, participants made school-closure decisions on the basis of snow forecasts from different sources and answered a series of questions about each forecast. Inconsistency among simultaneous forecasts did not significantly reduce trust, although inaccuracy did. Moreover, inconsistency may convey useful information to decision-makers. Not only do participants appear to incorporate the information provided by all forecasts into their own estimates of the outcome, but our results also suggest that inconsistency gives rise to the impression of greater uncertainty, which leads to more cautious decisions. The implications for decisions in a variety of domains are discussed.

Corresponding author: Jessica N. Burgeno, jburgeno@uw.edu

Abstract

People access weather forecasts from multiple sources [mobile telephone applications (“apps”), newspapers, and television] that are not always in agreement for a particular weather event. The experiment reported here investigated the effects of inconsistency among forecasts on user trust, weather-related decisions, and confidence in user decisions. In a computerized task, participants made school-closure decisions on the basis of snow forecasts from different sources and answered a series of questions about each forecast. Inconsistency among simultaneous forecasts did not significantly reduce trust, although inaccuracy did. Moreover, inconsistency may convey useful information to decision-makers. Not only do participants appear to incorporate the information provided by all forecasts into their own estimates of the outcome, but our results also suggest that inconsistency gives rise to the impression of greater uncertainty, which leads to more cautious decisions. The implications for decisions in a variety of domains are discussed.

Corresponding author: Jessica N. Burgeno, jburgeno@uw.edu
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