WSU Common Reading Welcomes Economists Smith and Wooten for Nov. 5 Lecture on Pundits, Predictions, and Confidence

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University economics Ph.D. students Ben Smith and Jadrian Wooten have studied social media to find “What Drives Demand for Pundits?,” and will present their findings to a Common Reading audience at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Todd 130.  The public is welcome.

“We are inundated by pundits, those who claim expertise in nearly any area,” they write. “Political pundits make wild predictions about enormous electoral wins. Financial pundits use an orchestra of sound effects to establish the confidence in their pick. But it is well established that pundits aren’t that accurate. So if they are so often wrong, why are they so confident? Is this just an artifact of who is picked to be on TV?”

Smith and Wooten used language analysis and data from Twitter to examine the roots of pundits’ confidence.

Wooten researches sports economics, natural resource economics, and teaching pedagogy. Smith earned his B.A. in finance from WSU, and is a behavioral and computational economist. The two have co-authored papers, include an August 2013 “Significance” magazine article called “Pundits: The confidence trick—better confident than right?”

Their presentation is hosted by the Common Reading Program, part of the Office of Undergraduate Education. The guest lecture is part of the year-long program in which thousands of students use the same book in dozens of first-year classes. The book for 2013-14 is “Being Wrong,” by Kathryn Schulz. Topics from it spur classroom discussions.

For information about this lecture and the program, and to submit nominations for the 2014-15 book, visit


MEDIA: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director of the WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-5488,

Beverly Makhani, Communications Director, WSU Office of Undergraduate Education, 509-335-6679,