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Is the Confirmation Bias Interfering with Your Betting?

When we talk about sports betting psychology, usually we focus on the basics: you need to develop discipline in order to commit yourself to success, and you need to keep a level head so your emotions don’t overwhelm you when you place your wagers on your preferred uk betting site.  But sometimes it pays off to delve a little deeper into specific concepts from psychology and how they might be involved with your betting decisions.

 

Maybe you are familiar with the concept of “cognitive biases.”  These are logic errors which tend to lead people away from rational decision-making.  There are dozens upon dozens of different cognitive biases which psychologists have identified.  Many of them can have an adverse effect on your betting choices.  One of them is the confirmation bias.

 

What is the Confirmation Bias?

The confirmation bias is a tendency that we have to focus our perceptions based on our existing preconceptions.

You can think of it as a mental filter for information.  It tends to let through information which backs up what you already believe, while it tends to block data which contradicts what you believe.

 

The confirmation bias is discussed in many areas of life.  You might actually remember learning about it in high-school civics class; it is one of the key explanations for why it is so hard to change someone’s political views, even when presenting them with excellent raw data.

 

You can already probably guess exactly how the confirmation bias can interfere with smart betting.  Let’s say that last year you wagered on Chelsea F.C. successfully with great results.  Naturally you expect them to do well again this year.  But you are getting a mix of data.  Some of it does back your expectations, while much of it points toward a change in the winds.  You cannot help but feel that the latter data must be unreliable somehow.  It does not fit into your mental portrait of the team.  And shouldn’t the past be predictive of the future when in doubt?

So you bet on Chelsea F.C., and they lose, and then you lose money and wonder why.

There are other ways in which the confirmation bias can disrupt smart betting as well.  Say for example that you have developed a certain method for betting on football games.  You have used it for several years now, largely with good results.  This year, though, it does not seem to be working quite right.  Your data are telling you that you may want to stop and think about what you are doing.  On the other hand … it has to be a fluke, doesn’t it?  Your cumulative data still paints your system as reliable. 

Things get worse and worse, until finally you have to admit that your system isn’t working.  Only then do you go back and examine what the data were trying to tell you. 

The worst thing about these situations is that while they are happening, you do not really notice the conflicting data half the time.  Maybe part of your brain takes note, but the majority of your brain writes it off as a coincidence or red herring. 

 

Confirmation bias does not always back up seemingly “positive” beliefs either.  It can also favour negative beliefs.  Say you struggle with self-esteem problems, and that you have been struggling to make a career out of sports betting for a while.  You may not actually be doing badly, but you could feel like you are.  Other punters you know are more successful, and you struggle with some statistical concepts. 

What you fail to see is that they struggle too, and maybe they had a head start on you.  But you just cannot seem to escape the cycle of believing, “I just can’t do this.  I’m never going to be good enough.”  Your friends even try to tell you how well you are doing, and you don’t believe them.  Ironically, this causes you to make avoidable mistakes.  You expect to screw up, so you do, and you struggle more.  This only feeds into your confirmation bias.

You can see how the confirmation bias can make a mess of your betting!  What is great about sports psychology though is that learning a new concept gives you an edge you didn’t have before.  Knowledge is power.  Now that you know the confirmation bias exists, you can start to recognise it in your own thinking.  That is the first step to becoming a more objective punter!

 

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