Principles of Forecasting

Volume 30 of the series International Series in Operations Research & Management Science pp 15-30

Role Playing: A Method to Forecast Decisions

  • J. Scott ArmstrongAffiliated withThe Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Role playing can be used to forecast decisions, such as “how will our competitors respond if we lower our prices?” In role playing, an administrator asks people to play roles and uses their “decisions” as forecasts. Such an exercise can produce a realistic simulation of the interactions among conflicting groups. The role play should match the actual situation in key respects, such as that role players should be somewhat similar to those being represented in the actual situations, and roleplayers should read instructions for their roles before reading about the situation. Role playing is most effective for predictions when two conflicting parties respond to large changes. A review of the evidence showed that role playing was effective in matching results for seven of eight experiments. In five actual situations, role playing was correct for 56 percent of 143 predictions, while unaided expert opinions were correct for 16 percent of 172 predictions. Role playing has also been used successfully to forecast outcomes in three studies. Successful uses of role playing have been claimed in the military, law, and business.


Analogies conflict situations decision-making experiments expert opinions game theory intentions