Confirmation Bias in betting and how to avoid it?

We all like to find people who agree with us and have similar opinions to our own. We tend to focus on sticking to what we know, and we love to have our opinion confirmed by others, especially people who we respect and like, however, in betting this can lead to some heavy losses, as betting is all about being as objective as possible.

There is confirmation bias everywhere around us. You can find opinions for anything. If you search about how potatoes are good for you, you could right after search about why you should never eat potatoes again and why they´re bad for you. If you did this for every kind of food you´d likely starve to death as there would be opinions for and against everything. If you don´t like potatoes you´ll like search for articles to support your point of view and vice versa. 


In betting this could mean that you may look for podcasts, analysts, and people giving out predictions, that reinforces your opinion. If you think that a fighter like Conor McGregor is going to win, you may discard other valid points of view, stats, new information, and other people’s perceptions of his upcoming fight. In a case like this speaking to hardcore McGregor Fans or only listening to people picking Conor McGregor may not be in your best interest, as you´d likely end up going from “I think he may win this, maybe 60% chance” to “There is no way he can lose, it´s a lock. All in.” This happens more often than you may think or realize. When we bet there are a lot of emotions going into it for most people, as the highs and lows of betting affects us all no matter how much we try to be professional, cold and calculated. But how can we avoid this confirmation bias? Starting out, it’s a good idea to try and not be a “fan” of any specific fighter, as this would be a bad starting point. Regardless how much money a fighter has made you, always be prepared to bet against them.

Sunsteins Experiment (2005)

In 2005 a study was made by the American Juraprofessor Cass Sunstein who made an experiment where people from the city of Boulder (mainly liberal area) and Colorado Springs (mainly republican) were randomly chosen to discuss certain political topics in small groups. The idea was that people who shared the same political point of view were put together in these groups.


The participants had to give their point of view three times. First individually and anonymously,then during the discussions in the group that lasted 15 minutes, and finally by answering a survey individually and anonymously after the discussions had ended. The results were as following:


  1. The liberal from Boulder became even more Liberal in their point of view, while the conservatives from Colorado Springs became more conservative.

  2. Before the discussions there were several topics where the liberals and the conservatives had fairly similar opinions, however after the discussions the difference in opinions had become much more extreme.

  3. After the discussions in their individual and anonymous answers, it was clear that the opinions among the participants had become less diverse and they showed a lot more conformity and unity than prior to the discussions.

    But why did this happen?


    Firstly the explanation may be that the individual participant received good arguments in the group that reinforced his or her opinion.


    Secondly, the comfort in finding people who agrees with you, may give the individual the confidence he or she needs to be more radical and outspoken about their opinion.

    Thirdly, the person who has the most respect and/or who is the loudest and seemingly most confident in their opinion may influence the rest of the group. If we are to talk about betting, this could be an analyst or someone with a lot of twitter followers that is well respected that that makes people doubt themselves despite maybe being horribly wrong.

    Lastly, it´s always nice when we get validation, and by agreeing with others we may receive this validation, so we may become more extreme in our opinion, or not mention the doubts we have because we don´t want to be a downer.


How to use this newfound knowledge?


Instead of only searching for those who have the same opinion as you in places like YouTube, or twitter etc., it may instead be much more productive to at least also look for people who have an opinion that is very different from your own. In order to stop this confirmation, bias from affecting you too much you want to try and avoid any echo chambers that just repeats your own opinion to yourself, as this often only makes your opinion stronger. Instead by listening and reading to people who disagree with you, you may find an argument they use to back their fighter, that you haven´t considered. It´s natural to only want to look at strengths, i.e., the strengths of your fighter and the weaknesses of the opponent, however, you also need to look at your fighters’ weaknesses and the opponents’ strengths, and people who disagree with your pick may help you with this.

In Conclusion

Form your own opinion first, and then seek out people who both agree and disagree with you.


Bonus Pro tip: If you like fighter A, then consider taping fighter B first, and try to prove yourself wrong. By doing this, you may avoid the confirmation bias. I always try to prove myself wrong and I´m open to listening to people who disagree with me – as this helps me stay neutral. This may sound weird but by trying to prove yourself wrong it could help you lessen the effect the confirmation bias.


If you still like a fighter after having tried to prove yourself wrong and by listening to people who disagree with you, then you may very well have found a good bet to put your money on.


I hope you found this article useful. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out all of my other betting articles in my betting guides section.  You´re also more than welcome to contact me for any topics that you would like me to cover in the future.   


Anders – Pro Sports Bettor & owner of The Fimbul Fight Picks Betting Service.