• Cristian Botello

Cognitive Dissonance and Fantasy Football


I love energy drinks. I don’t know why but I love them. At this point, I am drinking them just for the taste more-so than for the kick. Even after knowing the health ramifications of drinking energy drinks, I still drink them. Whenever someone informs me of the hazards, I quickly begin to rationalize my actions. I only drink them for the taste. It’s not like I go overboard and drink more than one. It only happens to individuals who are older and drink multiple a day. That, my friends, is an example of today’s topic, Cognitive Dissonance.


Cognitive dissonance is a type of bias defined as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. Essentially it is a state of anxiety or an unpleasant feeling when you know your actions are not matching your beliefs. Knowing that energy drinks are bad for my health is my thought or belief, but I still drink them. This belief is inconsistent with my behavior and causes some distress. There are plenty of examples of cognitive dissonance in fantasy football, but is cognitive dissonance a problem for us? Yes and no. For some people, the anxiety and discomfort never reaches a level where action needs to be taken. For others, it can be a problem. For some individuals, the anxiety or discomfort reaches a point where the individual needs to reduce it. To reduce dissonance either the actions or the belief needs to be changed. This is concerning because one of the easiest ways to resolve this issue is to seek out information that supports their beliefs. Confirmation bias leads us to reject points that would go against our view. Blindly trying to confirm your own belief and ignoring information that could help you is a trait that can be detrimental in fantasy football. In this day and age of fantasy analysis, we have a plethora of information available to us. Ignoring information that could help us win a championship just to confirm our own bias and reduce cognitive dissonance is not conducive to a good fantasy football strategy.


A recent example I have had of cognitive dissonance was during the draft. During the pre-draft process, I had beaten the table for Jonathan Taylor as the 1.01 in PPR standard leagues (although I love running backs and probably would’ve taken him 1.01 in a super-flex). I love the speed, the college production, the workhorse mentality. The only thing he was missing was the landing spot. When the draft rolled around, I was excited to see where my guy was going to land. There were whispers he could be selected in the first and having that draft capital would’ve solidified my expectations. Then the Chiefs were on the clock at 32. They selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the last pick of the first round. Patrick Mahomes made it known he wanted him, Andy Reid said he was a better version of Brian Westbrook, he is a perfect fit in that offense. CEH skyrocketed up draft boards of all the pundits and left me with an uneasy anxious feeling that I was all too familiar with.


Cognitive dissonance can be something we shrug off or something that can cause anxiety. It can cause people to search for statistics that support their belief and ignore any stat or evidence that can challenge their belief. The important takeaway is that everybody is different. Everybody has their own threshold to what they can handle n terms of discomfort. If you are comfortable and understand your dissonance you can make decisions for yourself. You can decide whether you need to reconsider your belief or change your actions, or if the dissonance is minimal, then you can choose to continue on with your life. Kind of like me and energy drinks. You know yourself more than any other expert, you ultimately have to make the decision for yourself.


In the aforementioned scenario, I can just change my belief. I believe that Jonathan Taylor is the best back in the draft and should be the 1.01, to relieve the cognitive dissonance I just change that belief thus changing my actions. I would then draft CEH at the 1.01 spot. For me in this example, I don’t want to change my beliefs. The discomfort isn't strong enough for me to warrant a change in action or belief. I am going to draft my guy. I trust my process and I trust my decision making. I am going to go with Jonathan Taylor and enjoy myself. Because at the end of the day, fantasy football is supposed to be fun, and one of the most fun things is getting your guy and enjoying this wonderful game. Even if that means I have to suffer through a year of shared carries with Marlon Mack and watching CEH get the lions share of the KC offense.


I hope to show how we can use psychology as a way to gain insights into our team building and team structure and use it to our advantage when it comes to fantasy football. Although psychology may not be as quantitative or as analytical as other sciences, we can become aware of our biases and know the problems they cause. We can gain a better insight into how we operate as fantasy football general managers and learn about our league mates and determine how their biases can be detrimental to them and beneficial to us.



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