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You’re unwittingly sabotaging your own fantasy football team. Fantasy points come out of talent and opportunity, not narratives.

Stashed in: Influence!, Brain, Stories, Your argument is invalid., Psychology!, Football, Fantasy Football

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Our brains are subject to cognitive biases from good stories.

If you are an off-season football junkie, you likely have strong opinions on most players, especially rookies. As you take in the offerings, you will most likely be drawn to articles that confirm what you already believe. If you love Johnny Manziel and think he should be the week 1 starter for the Browns, you can find content to support that belief. You can also find content that challenges it, but your brain will skip over those articles, dismissing them for one reason or another. You won’t even be aware that you’re selectively reading and watching football analysis that reinforces a belief you already have—you’re probably thrilled that so many experts agree with you.

The value of confirmation bias lies in the fact that being confident in our beliefs makes us more likely to act decisively and increases our self-esteem. Feeling good about oneself is actually a key component of attractiveness, so scientists have speculated that some biases persist because those that have them are more likely to reproduce and pass those genes on. Confirmation bias may or may not hurt your fantasy team, right? You’re getting a false sense of confidence in your decision, but that decision may in fact be the right one.

What if you’ve been out of the football loop for the past six months? How can biases affect your fantasy draft/team? The biggest issue this time of year is what’s known as recency bias.

Hype over training camp and preseason performances is off the charts. Players who get a lot of positive attention in the preseason shoot up the draft boards while quieter players plummet. Those players that get a lot of preseason attention are often those that have nifty narratives attached to them. Pick any one: rookie, new team, new coach, comeback from injury, new weapons, etc. Combine a good performance with a good story, and writers will go nuts. Then readers go nuts. All of a sudden, hype has propelled a guy from the 13th round to the fifth round! Meanwhile, who falls out of the fifth round? A solid player who’s boring, that’s who. I’m not saying to ignore preseason results—we do learn a lot about depth, chemistry, and overall offensive efficacy from these critical weeks leading up to week 1—just don’t get too carried away.

These are only a couple of the many ways your brain can fool you into making decisions that might not be optimal for your fantasy team. Fantasy points come out of talent and opportunity, not narratives. By being aware of the various biases you fall prey to, you can take steps to avoid draft busts, bad sit/start decisions, and ill-advised trades that tank your fantasy football team.

Memo to self: Take more solid boring players. 

Darn it.

I did this again in 2015.

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