Delving into the World of Sports Betting Psychology

Confirmation Bias in Sports Betting

Do you remember any of the past occasions when you were immensely interested in betting on a certain team or player, however changed your decision and bet on their opponent instead when you found new information related to the event? In case you don’t indulge in such practice very often, the chances are high that you’ve fallen prey to confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a phenomenon which can majorly impact your sports betting endeavours.
There’s a simple theory that is at the root of this bias – Human beings prefer sticking to things they are aware of, instead of changing their opinions as and when new information or evidence becomes available.
Rather than objectively analysing any new information discovered by a person, he would instinctively pay attention to only few sources and overlook everything else which challenges his existing perception.
This is a very negative phenomenon for sports betting, as every time you increase the subjectivity of a certain circumstance, you move away from the possibility of making accurate predictions related to events.
But how is it possible to ignore our inherent tendency of succumbing to confirmation bias?

About information overload
Google provides a tremendous opportunity for demonstration of the power and potential of confirmation bias. Let’s understand it with an example. Select any one of the following conspiracy theories which you most disagree with:
– 9/11 was a job of insiders
– All aliens have been kept inside Area 51
– We’ve never set foot on the moon

What you need to do is pick at least one theory from the above and carry out some research on it on the Google search engine. You’ll come across several millions of results, websites to be precise, logically discussing the objectivity of that suspect theory. One of the results when you look up details of moon landings is titled, ‘The moon landings were faked – Conspiracy theories.’ Looking up aliens on Google, you may come across websites that detail a whole lot of reasons justifying why aliens may have been kept inside Area 51. On the other hand, research related to 9/11 terrorist attack will turn up many websites detailing facts hell-bent on proving that 9/11 was in fact an insider job.
There are very high chances that none of the websites you visit will change your views about the subject, no matter how many of them are presented to you and the kind of solid reasoning they put up in front of you. Of course, you may say that your choice of believing these theories could be sensible as well, considering the scenario, however, it should be noted that despite several millions of results backing a certain theory, for instance 9/11 being an insider job, a person’s preset opinions are pretty hard to change.

So, we can safely conclude:
We human beings prefer sticking to what we know, instead of changing our opinions based on fresh evidence.

You may experience the same phenomenon whenever you investigate various teams or players involved in your betting endeavours. The current beliefs of an individual are reinforced based on the information he finds, but he’s most likely to ignore any new counter active evidence that is presented to him. For instance, a large majority of people consider Brazil to be an excellent football team, regardless of the fact that it’s win percentage was no more than 54.3% from the 36 games it had played before the 2013 Confederations Cup.
This phenomenon was also studied in a field quite similar to sports betting – online stock market investments. This study was carried out by Park et al in the year 2010 and revealed that stock investors normally gathered information related to a certain prospective stock by going though information which can strengthen their already existing opinion about that specific stock. Quite interestingly, the traders making the least amount of money were the ones who were the victim of the strongest confirmation bias.
This confirmation bias may extend even to the tracking of your own betting successes. It is simply because we all wish to believe that we are doing pretty well. As a result, we become prone and fall prey to the confirmation bias related to our performance. Therefore, we recall our wins far more strongly compared to our losses, even if that may not actually be the case.

How to prevent confirmation bias?
The only way you can prevent and overcome confirmation bias is by alleviating its effect. This can be achieved by logically and objectively experiencing and accepting the countering points of view. Although this may sound pretty easy, any objective investigation of a counter argument is a pretty difficult affair, as is already proved by the conspiracy theories discussed above.
Accepted that you can’t be 100% objective when it comes to counter points of view, and in fact no one can, however, just by getting better at appreciating different well-informed points of view which differ from your own perceptions, is guaranteed to turn you into a savvier sports bettor.