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What is the Focusing Effect?

When you are learning how to bet on sports, you are going to be analysing a lot of data on a daily basis.  Analysing data is not without its psychological pitfalls, and chances are good that you have already tripped into a number of them.  In other recent articles I have examined the what is confirmation bias and is it interfering with your betting and What Is the Clustering Illusion.  Now I want to tell you about the focusing effect.


The focusing effect is a feature of what psychologists call “anchoring” or “focalism.”  Anchoring occurs any time you start accumulating information on any given topic.  You get an initial piece of information, which is your “anchor” or “focus.”  This informs all your future perceptions on the topic - including additional data on the same subject.  This creates an ongoing bias in your judgements.

The “focusing effect,” also called the “focusing illusion,” refers to a bias toward a particular anchor.  If you place an unwarranted amount of emphasis on a particular aspect of an event, this can reduce your ability to accurately predict the future.


How does this play into sports betting?  Well, just look at the way that the public bets.  The betting public has a tendency to grossly oversimplify sporting events, especially big matches.  They tend to focus on one remarkable aspect of the match to the exclusion of all other information.


Ask a casual punter why he or she is placing a particular wager, and that person will often respond with one reason.  It could be something like …

  • “This is (important player)’s last match ever, so that is going to give them extra motivation to win.”
  • “They have to win this one to stay in the tournament.”
  • “Well, they are travelling from (location), so they are going to be really tired, so they are going to lose.”
  • “(Key player) is on a roll right now and can’t lose.”


All of these are oversimplifications of real life.  Any one of these factors is obviously significant and will have an effect on the outcome of a match, but that does not mean that one can ignore other features of an event.  Maybe a team does have an amazing player or extra motivation or appears to be on a winning streak, but that does not mean that other factors are not also going to impact performance.  And quite often, a fluke decides a match outcome.


The bottom line is that you should do your best to avoid the focusing effect.  Take note of the factor that you have a tendency to want to focus on, but do not examine it in isolation!  Put it in context of other key factors.  Your reason for wagering on a particular team or player should always have a contextual basis.  You should be able to provide a well-reasoned argument that takes that context into effect.


Here a few other factors that can affect your judgment when betting on UK betting sites:


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A few things to consider when gambling online:

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