Friday, 24 October 2014

Are you guilty of confirmation bias?

When selecting your bets from a field of horses – are you always completely objective? Or is your mind swayed by information which may be extraneous?

Most people trying to be professional gamblers at racing would answer that they think they’re objective – but few of us are in reality.

For example – if you’re backing or laying a horse on a betting exchange like Betfair and the market moves against you – do you see this as an opportunity or a threat? Of course, there may be good reason for the move, but if you have the same information as everyone else, it’s more likely to be based on sentiment alone.

Many of us suffer from what is usually called “confirmation bias” without even being aware of it. Confirmation bias is the innate human tendency to seek out and prioritise information which confirms our already-held beliefs.

Punters are guilty of confirmation bias when they look for information selectively – and when they interpret that information in a biased manner. Of course, this crops up in many aspects of life and particularly decision-making in business. But it applies equally well to punters. Often, we’ve really decided which horse to back before we look at the evidence – then we look for factors which confirm our beliefs; it loves the ground, it’s on the upgrade, the trainer’s bang in form, a course specialist blah-blah…. And the converse is also true – we give greater weight to arguments against other potential selections that we’ve decided against.

This is no good. We need to be more objective and find ways of making sure that we are – as this is something that’s hard to do on your own.


To weigh up everything we can about a race in a neutral, entirely objective and “scientific” manner is preferable. You can do this by asking someone else to look at your analysis – or try and do your analysis “blind” to any extraneous factors if you can – particularly any prior knowledge of the probable SP. Overall – try to look at the “numbers” only and ignore anything else.

By Harry Willis

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