Underwriting is Noisy

An example a brief essay “Bias Is a Big Problem. But So Is ‘Noise.” about noise and decision-making in the NYT by Daniel Kahneman and his co-authors in support of their new book Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement:

Consider another noisy system, this time in the private sector. In 2015, we conducted a study of underwriters in a large insurance company. Forty-eight underwriters were shown realistic summaries of risks to which they assigned premiums, just as they did in their jobs.

How much of a difference would you expect to find between the premium values that two competent underwriters assigned to the same risk? Executives in the insurance company said they expected about a 10 percent difference. But the typical difference we found between two underwriters was an astonishing 55 percent of their average premium — more than five times as large as the executives had expected.

This is why you don’t buy an insurance policy from a captive agent; you purchase through an independent agent who can get quotes from multiple companies. Every decision is subject to bias and noise, and they are separate and independent problems (i.e. both inaccurate and imprecise).

The easiest way to push both in your favor is through multiple independent attempts.

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