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. I initially wrote a lot of these back in 2017, but they’ve been retrofitted with new examples and finessed to better suit today’s 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
We’ve all been there.
You’re looking at your run of red arrows, disgruntled with your team, and are starting to descend the spiral of taking hits to try to work your way out of it.
I was certainly there in the season just gone, taking hit after hit when the red arrow procession struck.
Our friend Joe from FFS recognised the bind I was in and my reaction, and mentioned his own experience to try to help me:
These hits are moreish as I once said as I tumbled out of the top 1m.
My advice- step away from the computer, captain Hazard against an awful Newcastle side and with no Morata to hinder him. Next week look to get Salah.
— FFScout Joe (@FFScout_Joe) 10 January 2019
Ultimately, I did end up taking a -8 to bring Salah and Van Dijk in.
But overall, as we saw also last season, this season just gone a patient game appears to have really paid dividends.
We also spoke about this a bit in our pod on overmanagement (article forthcoming).
All of this got me thinking: why might this be?
One reason for this could be different types of involvement.
Involvement in psychology
The academic literature of involvement defines two major typologies: enduring (stable) involvement and situational (transient) involvement.
Let’s apply this to a real world example.
Imagine you were buying a bottle of gin for a house party.
If you had enduring involvement with the category – say you were a bit of a gin connoisseur – you might think about things like the taste notes, origin and product form of the gin bottle in making your purchase, with things like price and brand perhaps secondary considerations. You will, simply put, have thought about it a lot more than your average gin buyer and you may take longer to come to a decision as you mull over the options.
In contrast, if you are not a gin connoisseur, then your involvement is only situational; you will know that you want gin, but your decision on which to buy will be shaped predominantly by factors like price and brand when deciding what to buy: you won’t be thinking too deeply about the other factors behind the gin when purchasing. Your choice doesn’t have a high barrier for satisfaction – think of it as a “that’ll do” purchase.
This gives rise to some decison-making psychological terms for your vocab, too:
- A “maximiser” is someone who takes a lot of time to analyse all the angles when making a decision to make sure they’ve considered all possibilities – normally, your enduring involvement person. They also tend to worry after if they’ve made the right call, regardless of what it is they were deciding on – be it a new 5.5m midfielder or a washing machine.
- A “satificer” is someone who wants a shortcut to find a “that’ll do” solution. as a situational involvement indivdual, they’ll tend to not worry about this after the decision has been made.
In terms of evolutionary psychology, the notion of task-based specialisms is nothing new: think of the hunter v gatherer stereotype.
However, as the scope of human activity has broadened (dramatically enabled by the interwebs, of course) conditions for “hyper-specificity” of specialism have been created (cf. Tom, FPL content provider).
Personality naturally segments people: the level of involvement is one way of categorising how that works (greater nuances can be devised, but for the purposes of this article we are keeping to the top level).
Application to FPL
This is easy to apply for FPL in terms of the initial question of why some people may not be as able to stop themselves from tinkering with their sides than others.
On one hand, you have the less engaged FPL manager who logs in on a Friday night and does their transfers based on who everyone else is transferring in. I’ve genuinely seen this done by friends who are, at best, mildly into FPL many times.
Either way, this involvement is situational – they need a defender for a certain price, check out who everyone is buying, and then buy them themselves. Job done, next.
In contrast, more engaged managers such as me will agonise about their team and put a lot more cognitive effort into their transfers. We certainly may be more liable to be thinking beyond the immediate Gameweek when we are making transfers, meaning we can lose out on the immediate returns: I’m sure you’ve been there!
Either way, the fact that your involvement is more enduring can mean that you are led to think about fantasy football in far more detail than your situationally involved cousins.
This can often be the sole differentiator between no action and reaction, hit or no hit – overmanagement versus good management.
The consequences of that action can influence how we perform as FPL managers.
The fact that you’re reading this probably indicates that you’re an enduringly involved FPL manager.
The best advice I can give, if your level of involvement is detrimental to your FPL rank, is to try to set yourself end goals in order to limit the potential for your impulse to drive unnecessary action: be wary of overmanaging.
For example, set yourself the objective of having 2 FTs “no matter what” next Gameweek, and try to hold firm to that goal.
Accept that sometimes exceptions occur (e.g. injury/long term suspension to key asset) but try to default to a position of holding on to 2FT.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
(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)