Psychology Corner: Framing

This is Psychology Corner, where Tom brings in his knowledge from his professional life to bear in analysing the psychology and behaviour of Fantasy Football (FPL) managers. This expands on something spoken about in a prior pod – a bit behind on these so the examples have been updated a bit to reflect the current context.

Please note these articles aren’t claiming to explain everything that is going on, but are suggesting a psychological factor (or two) that could be influencing behaviour.

Through our involvement in the FPL community we are constantly consuming a huge feed of information.

Standard formatting, in terms of how information is presented, tends to be a stat plus a statement – e.g. “consider [x] for your team, he’s done [stat]”, “I’m keeping [x] because of [stat]”. This can, of course, extend to longer posts (or even podcast sections!), all hinging on a certain portrayal of data.

However, as our writer Ed and I have often joked, the use of words and numbers can be a very fluid thing – they can be presented in certain ways to support a particular point you’re trying to make. In psychology, this is called framing.

A quick example

Consider the case of the following two players*:

Player 1: This player is having a stormer of a season so far, his scintillating form shown through his scoring ten goals in the last eleven games. He’s the main threat for his side, as displayed through the incredible amount of shots he has had so far this season – more than twice the amount he had last year at the same juncture (78 v 27). He’s also on penalties and has registered goals against all kinds of teams this season, with braces against both newly promoted and title-challenging sides. You need this guy in your team.

Player 2: This player is performing below expectations this term. He’s been in indifferent form, especially of late when he’s scored only twice in the last five games. He’s profligate in the extreme, as shown through his diminished shot accuracy this season vs. last at the same moment in time (36% v 56%), meaning he’s not converting to anywhere near the level you’d expect. His inability to perform is shown through the fact he’s blanked against all manner of teams, including newly promoted sides and also the bottom side in the Premier League currently. Sell, sell, sell.

So, who is player 1?

Step forward, Harry Kane

What about player 2?

Err… keep standing there, Harry

As you can see, how you frame the information has a big impact on the effect of your statement on the reader: there are almost always multiple ways to frame information.

Framing in psychology

Framing is a cognitive bias which dictates how people form preferences depending on the way in which options are presented.

This tends to work on a loss or gain basis, meaning that presentation of information tends to revolve around how the commodity in question would see you benefit or be limited in comparison to a perceived “norm”.

This is because the way in which something is expressed provides either oral or visual reference points, which our brains use to interpret the meaning behind what we’re being told.

As I said at the top, in the FPL community there is a constant stream of information being fed to us. The sheer volume of it means that we often don’t the time (n)or the inclination to look deeper into what we see in front of us.

The danger can sometimes be that things are taken at face value and believed, even if the point is ridiculous when shorn of context.

This is something we (and others like our friend FPL Connect, amongst others) have parodied a bit recently, given the regrettable amount of facile “x has more points than y, ergo x is a better player” tweets we’ve noticed doing the rounds in the last few Gameweeks:

This was, of course, ridiculous given the context of the lack of games for Eden – but the framing effect in how the facts is were makes it seem that Surman is the gain factor and Hazard the loss.

We like to think that, as experienced and savvy managers, we think more about this and can see past it, but for others this can be internalised as the truth. The media feeds in to this, too – think of the lazy stereotypes wheeled out by Sky Sports “analysts” on a weekly basis.

So I’d advise, whenever you see stats, to try to check it out the source of the data for yourself, or think for yourself of another way of presenting the data. It can often be the case that there’s more that lies behind the interpretation of the data you’ve been presented; it’s almost always framed to illustrate a point.

But remember that no matter how hard we try to be objective, everyone naturally presents data in a certain way to reinforces a point they’re trying to make.

It’s up to you to judge if that interpretation is the best way of understanding the opinion being presented.

(caveat: these articles condense often complex concepts into bitesize chunks – there is obviously far more depth and detail to each concept, with reams of academic and practical theory that informs what is reported here)

*Ed (writing as Prokoptas) gave a similar example in an article (which referenced me in my alter ego of Individual) on FFS a little while ago.