Psychology Corner: Hypocrisy and Dissonance

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.

As people who are active in the FPL community, we are often asked to give an opinion on things.

This opinion is disseminated publicly – either on the pod or by us on social media.

This presents many benefits (hopefully we’re giving good advice to people, and it gets our word out there), but it also carries many risks.

A good example might be if we say “oh I would never transfer in [player x]” but then on the Saturday morning it transpires that, actually, one of us has done so.

It may be that we are open to accusations of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy and dissonance

This is a real fear for us all: being called a hypocrite is an anxiety that influences people’s behaviour in all contexts – think of politicians, or parents. It’s a very emotionally driven psychological effect on behaviour – we don’t want to lose our sense of ‘dignity’.

Hypocrisy itself is interesting as it feeds into the psychology of dissonance –the discomfort felt from having two competing thoughts or behaviours. Rational thinking dictates that we shouldn’t be able to hold two beliefs that compete simultaneously: this is the nub of what George Orwell darkly riffs upon with the idea of “doublethink” in 1984.

Source: http://betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com

We ultimately aren’t rational as human beings, but we always want to present ourselves as such. For each and every one of us, as much as we might wish to style ourselves as mercenaries of current opinion, there’s ultimately a set of beliefs and ideas that we subscribe to and define ourselves by. And, if we’re talking about them, we broadcast them outwardly.

So whenever something happens that challenges that belief (e.g. I wasn’t going to buy a player, but suddenly circumstances form where getting him looks a good option), it creates this cognitive dissonance.

How we respond to dissonance

Broadly, we broadly have 3 options in how we respond to this dissonance:

  • we can reject it immediately (Semmelweis)
  • consider it and then realise that we don’t want to change what we’ve said and appear a hypocrite
  • change your belief and post-rationalise why what you thought before was a mistake

I mentioned politicians earlier, and they are particular examples of number 3 in action: think when someone’s unsavoury past personal views are brought to light and they’re forced to apologise and claim they have changed. Also think last year’s storm with Andre Gray.

The upshot of this is that we don’t tend to be too comfortable with holding competing beliefs, and seek to resolve the dissonance. This can lead to all kinds of behaviours which could ultimately be unfavourable to one’s own chances of success in a given pursuit.

Application to FPL

Who cares if you’re a hypocrite, get this lad in your side!

This is why we find things like people making unfavourable moves to avoid obvious solutions in FPL because they don’t want to be seen as a hypocrite. An example may be someone last season who refused to transfer in Arsenal players, for example, despite Sanchez’s storming form. Or think someone not getting in a form player because of a broadcasted belief that they will stop scoring soon – they may eventually not buy the player due not wanting to be seen as a hypocrite when the rational choice is to cave (think Salah this season).

They ultimately may have valued their nebulous sense of “dignity” in not being seen as a hypocrite amongst their peers over their FPL fortunes which is, in the end, detrimental to them and only them.

A good solution to this if you find yourself in such a bind is try to think about things clinically – think the yellow legal pad of How I Met Your Mother fame. Try to take your emotion and your own sense of ego out of it, and instead concentrate on the actual pros and cons of the situation if your emotional attachment to the situation wasn’t a factor in your thinking. You may then see the wood through the trees if you see everything in front of you, shorn of the emotional side of things.

Hypocrisy will always exist. Just try to not to be trapped by worries about reflective emotional judgement if you are doing something that is contrary to your past assertions – in an FPL sense anyway, since we’re trying to help you with that specific issue here.

When it comes to broader issues, I’ll leave that up to you.

(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)

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