Mental models in DFS: Part 2, The Bias From Liking

Post originally appeared in RotoGrinders


Last week I wrote about how the availability heuristic impairs us as daily fantasy players from making smart decisions. We remember more clearly those events which are more readily available to our memory, which is especially prevalent in daily sporting contests.

This week I’ll move to look at the bias from liking, which sounds a little more obvious, but tricks all of us all the time. It’s slightly different from the availability heuristic in that it’s not necessarily what we last remember, but subconsciously how we’re wired to think.

What is bias from liking?

Have you seen MoneyBall? There’s a scene where the scouts are sitting there considering replacements for their lost MVP, and are chatting away about how one candidate isn’t the right one. The reason? He has an “ugly girlfriend”, which must mean a lack of self confidence.

Billy Beane sits there with his head in his hands, “what are we doing?” He’s already realised the importance of removing our biases & focusing on the data. The bias in this particular situation? Bias from liking. Bias from liking good looking players, players who just look right, speak right & have good looking girlfriends.

We’ve all fallen victim to this “Halo Effect”, where we automatically ascribe certain characteristics to individuals when we have no idea whether they have them, simply because of how they look. A good looking woman is probably kind & a tall handsome man is probably smart. It’s all a sub-conscious system working away.

This isn’t a bias confined to the individual either. In the US & Canada, attractive individuals earn on average 12-14% higher than their unattractive coworkers. It’s a systematic subconscious, but it can be beaten.

“And what will a man naturally come to like and love,

apart from his parent, spouse and child?

Well, he will like and love being liked and loved.”
— Charlie Munger

Bias from Liking in DFS

Think about a full EPL weekend, where all the players are on show. You have a full set of players to choose from, your sample size is as big as can be. What’s your first reaction? Probably the usual names that you like, the players from your own team.

That’s why FPL restrict the number of players you can choose from one team, you’d end up picking them all. That’s why most DFS sites have a budget, so you can’t just go in & pick your favourite players every time. You have to think.

Even with these restrictions however, you’re still at risk. Let’s imagine a situation where Chelsea are playing Man Utd, and Liverpool are playing West Brom. You’re making your striker decision. First thought? Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Why? You’re a Man Utd fan, you love Ibra!

You probably feel guilty for even thinking about drafting a Liverpool striker. “Scum”, you think to yourself. Last week I mentioned the idea of “the matrix of fact,” which is a term I’ve borrowed from my legal studies in the past. It was set out by the famous Lord Hoffman in a 1998 contract case. The basic premise is that all the facts of situation, both direct & indirect, should be taken into account before determining the context of that situation.

In the above example, you have to acknowledge that Man Utd’s opposition are Chelsea here. The forward players aren’t likely to get many chances, and once you add the variable of DFS scoring into the equation, you realise you have to forget about who you like & think which forward will be most effective on this DFS site today.

It is clear then that Firmino for Liverpool will likely get more touches, key passes, shots, assists and goals against West Brom than Ibrahimovic against Chelsea. You might like Ibra more as a player, but when you take into consideration his price & estimated value add against Chelsea, it’s better for you to go against your gut feeling.