Has cognitive psychology changed your March Madness Bracket?

Heuristics are simple, efficient learned rules that have been posed to explain how people make decisions, judgements, and solve problems. These “rules” are working around us much more than you would expect and may effect how you do things, including the march madness brackets. These simple and efficient rules are influenced by bias’ that can change what our normal behavior would be. These bias’ may have caused you to make poor decisions about your bracket when you maybe shouldn’t have.

The confirmation bias is most likely a cause of choosing a team you have been skeptical about because you have heard some information supporting your decision. Watching all the “experts” fill out their brackets will likely have a large influence on this. If you were going back and forth between picking Notre Dame and Wisconsin but the guys on sports center all take Notre Dame. Your opinion has been confirmed and you are more likely to go with Notre Dame. When these “experts” talk so confidently about a teams record and their likelihood to succeed, you are more likely to conform to that idea.

The negativity bias can also play an important role. Deciding to take Duke over North Carolina because you are a Duke fan and hate North Carolina even though NC has a better chance of winning, is an example of negativity bias. Although NC has a better record and had been performing better going in to March Madness, it doesn’t matter they are rivals, and you are a Duke fan. This is going to cause you to put more feeling on the negative feelings you have for NC than to use facts and decide they are more likely to win.

Was your bracket a victim of groupthink? Although you know that Hawaii probably wont beat Maryland, you pick Hawaii anyway because they are the underdog and you and your friend have been talking about how awesome the upset would be. You decide to take Hawaii over Maryland even though Maryland is a higher seed because you think the risk will pay off in your bracket and no one has told you otherwise. You have become a victim of groupthink. Although you know that Hawaii is not as likely to win the game and ruin your bracket, you do it anyway. You have the available information to make a good decision but you take part in the risky behavior anyway.

Although there are no sure fire ways to set a winning bracket there are some things you can do to avoid falling in to the cognitive traps. To avoid groupthink, seek advice of people who may have different opinions than you. If you know your best friend is going to agree with you, ask someone else. They may have a point you haven’t thought of. The confirmation bias can be avoided by making your decisions without watching hours of sports center and reading the same articles over and over. Taking your personal opinion or judgement out of the picture can help to avoid the negativity bias. Instead of choosing your favorite team, even though they aren’t quite as good, choose the one you think is most likely to win.

This video does not have a ton to do with what my post is about but it fits what we covered in class really well if you skip to 3:37

1 thought on “Has cognitive psychology changed your March Madness Bracket?

  1. rkosmack17

    It’s true that we bias other teams based on our view of our favorite team. Sometimes we like a team that performs well in most games and we base our bias on those results. Although, other times we base our preference on our favorite team from the area we live around or the team that has a connection to you most through friends or family. That connection we have with the team can bring us to think that whichever team you support, will win every future game. In addition, we can develop an interest in a team based off other peoples interests. Instead of sticking to what you originally believe, you beginning agreeing with the people around yourself. I like how you explain the best way to develop your opinion without basing it off what other people think and what area you live around to interfere with this decision.

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