Trying to Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner With the Elephant in the Room

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 22.

Usually, the hot topics at Thanksgiving dinner are the arts, sports or the always-safe subject of the weather.

This year, however, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. 

Yes, I can have a conversation about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in more than a century, after being behind 1-3 games in a best-of-seven series.

Three weeks later, we know the outcome of this very stressful, once-in-a-lifetime game.

However, the baseball pundits and pollsters had given the Cleveland Indians a 76% chance of winning.

I can expect that the youngest person at my Thanksgiving table, 20-year-old, Jason, will say, "I haven't a clue as to why they would predict that outcome."

And I will answer that one of my professors at Yale School of Management said that pollsters and pundits usually suffer from overconfidence bias, which is the tendency of experts to overestimate their knowledge and the accuracy of their information.

Then Jason's mother, Carly, will say that it is similar to "the 85% of drivers who think that they are above-average, even when they are bedridden at the hospital recovering from traffic accidents that they themselves caused."

"Those guys on TV excessively value their opinions and just look for information that confirms it," I will say.

Then, if the outcome is unexpected, they move on in some cases to more predictions, I will add.

"The typical hindsight bias" my wife, who has worked in the news business for more than 20 years, will say.

"Simply, once the dust has settled they all said that 'they knew it all along.' They choose to rewrite their memories to, as behavioral economics professors say, portray the positive developments as it they were predictable," I will say.

"They do it all over again because there is no accountability. Nobody questions the pundits because they are pundits," I will add. 

"At 10 p.m., on election night, pollsters were still giving Hillary Clinton a 70% chance of winning," Jason will interject.

All of a sudden, silence will ensue. The elephant will have just dropped his trunk on the table.

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