FPL Conformity

Last updated on July 12th, 2019

Written by Blocc FPL, follow him on twitter @BloccFPL

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first edition of FPL Psychology. Hopefully these articles will give the reader a better understanding of how psychological principles are impacting your FPL managing, and how to improve in such areas.

Twitter and FPL Managers

Probably the most significant influence twitter can have on an FPL manager is best explained by the Asch conformity experiment. Here is a link to a video that shows the experiment: https://youtu.be/TYIh4MkcfJA

This kind of influence happens for specific events throughout the entirety of the FPL season. For example, when Son got red-carded at the end of last season, you may have seen posts about who good replacements would be. In events like this, it’s likely most effective to thoroughly research the situation and figure out what would be best for your team before checking twitter posts about the subject. You don’t have to make an early transfer, but just assess the situation and be aware of (maybe even write down) what your own opinions are before those opinions can be impacted by others. As demonstrated by that experiment, the views of others can impact your own even if they’re clearly unreasonable. If the first three or four Twitter posts you see about an FPL topic all hold the same view, you could easily end up like the subject in Asch’s experiment.

Most dedicated FPL managers likely keep up with FPL news and see posts from a variety of clubs, players, and fans on Twitter. Following these accounts can be very beneficial, as they provide stats and potential insight to guide future FPL decisions. However, if an FPL manager relatively rarely hears news, updates, or rants about a player or club, they may feel less familiar with those players and clubs. In this way, the FPL manager that never sees posts about Burnley players will be less likely to choose Burnley players, even if the manager knows about them and their potential FPL abilities. It would not be a conscious effort by the FPL manager, but more like a lack of priming (relative to the priming of thoughts of other players) that may cause the manager to skip over the Burnley players and not even consider them for selection. Simply put, if you see posts about a certain player everyday, you will at least have some sort of reaction to that player’s name when you’re looking through players on the FPL website to fill your team. Thoughts will probably cross your mind about how you suppose he’s at least a decent punt for a 4.5 million pound defender, and you will give that player his fair consideration, even though you didn’t have that same reactions to players of the same value or skill. Of course, you will never end up selecting those players that you skip over with no real consideration.

Priming refers to the initial activation of a concept that crosses our thoughts that leads to that concept coming more easily to our mind soon after. Priming explains how, if people were just talking or thinking about ducks, they are more likely to see a duck instead of a rabbit in the picture below. In this case, they were primed with the thought of ducks.

Studies show that people who are primed with “rude” words interrupt people more than people who are primed to think of words concerned with being polite. Studies such as this one show how priming can impact behavior.

There is also a type of conditioning called classical conditioning. According to Simply Psychology, classical conditioning “involves learning to associate an unconditioned stimulus that already brings about a particular response (i.e., a reflex) with a new (conditioned) stimulus, so that the new stimulus brings about the same response”.

So how does all of this relate to Fantasy Premier League? Well, us FPLers are likely being primed and classically conditioned in a way that impacts our decisions all the time. Let’s say an FPL manager is scrolling through twitter and they see a post from AFC Bournemouth’s twitter page that is full of excitement for the next season and expecting good performances from the team with a picture of the squad all together and happy. Now the FPL manager is primed with thoughts of Bournemouth. Also, the post has aspects of classical conditioning, with positive things being associated with the team. The congratulations and indicating of a positive achievement is the reflex (we automatically understand that those are good), and the team and players are the conditioned stimulus in this case. How does this twitter post impact the FPL manager’s decision making when he goes to make a transfer in FPL? Well, based on how priming works, it’s not ridiculous to say that the FPL manager is now more likely to consider Bournemouth options for his team. It may be a marginal impact, but as he is looking through cheap players, it makes sense that he is now more likely to at least click the information icon on Bournemouth players to see how they’ve been doing lately because seeing the Bournemouth player is a more recently familiar stimulus than other players. Assuming that the FPL manager is making decisions for his FPL team shortly after scrolling through twitter, priming will make an impact in this way. In terms of classical conditioning, seeing one post may also have some small impact, but becoming conditioned into a certain way of thinking requires more repetition. If you’re constantly seeing posts about a player or team being associated with other good things, there might be some classical conditioning going on. Over the course of thirty-eight gameweeks and thousands of posts, this sort of priming and classical conditioning may make a significant difference in one’s FPL season. In order to be able to conclude priming and classical conditioning have an impact on an FPL manager’s decisions, a study would have to be done (of course).

To avoid being primed or conditioned in a way that may add some bias into your decisions isn’t easy, but it helps to be aware of what’s happening as you scroll through Twitter. All of the posts from fan pages of the team you support is partially why some managers may think they can separate their feelings about players from their FPL decision making, but in reality the bias to recognize and look into certain players runs deeper. It’s probably best to follow different kinds of pages that post about different teams for this reason.

In conclusion, it may be effective to follow pages that post about different teams on twitter, and it’s certainly effective to develop your own views on FPL issues before going through Twitter’s. Don’t end up like a test subject in a conformity experiment.

Mark De Carvalho
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