What is the Availability Heuristic in Sports Betting?

What is the Availability Heuristic in Sports Betting?

The Availability Heuristic: Origin, Effects & How to Avoid It!

The availability heuristic describes the human tendency to make future decisions based on the information that quickly and most easily comes to mind. It functions on the idea that if something can be recalled, it must be at least more important than other solutions that they may not remember as easily. Thereafter, people will weigh their decisions heavily towards more recent recollections and form new opinions that are biased toward those ideas.

Remembering the consequences tied to an action is also related to the perceptions of how big the consequences were of that same action. So, for example, if it’s easier to remember the consequences of something, those same consequences are thought to be greater than what they actually are. 

The availability heuristic is the natural inclination to assign a higher degree of importance to things that are either quicker to remember or may have left a bigger impression. But unfortunately, using these easy-to-remember events is less effective in evaluating risks and outcomes than we ultimately believe them to be.    

Where Did the Availability Heuristic Originate?

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman were well-known scientists in the field of cognitive bias and are credited with discovering the availability heuristic. In an experiment to confirm their research, subjects of a study were asked to predict how often random words in English text start with the letter ‘k’ or have ‘k’ as the third letter. 

The study subjects greatly overestimated the number of words starting with ‘k’ and did the same in underestimating the number of words with the third letter ‘k.’ This is due to the availability heuristic, where it’s much easier for our brains to recall words that start with a ‘k’ than to think of words that have ‘k’ as the third letter. 

The overall result was the subjects were confused; the likely probability with the ease of recalling the words. This is because there are three times more words that have ‘k’ as the third letter than words that start with ‘k.’ 

This phenomenon frequently occurs in our everyday lives. For example, after seeing news stories about horrific plane crashes, people may assume that the likelihood of this happening is greater than it actually is. Coverage in the media of events such as these and less coverage of more common events, such as car accidents, can help in fueling a person’s bias.

Why It Happens

Heuristics are shortcuts used by the brain to help in guiding decisions. For example, when making any decision, the availability heuristic makes it much easier, which also means our memories may not be as reliable as we think when predicting the outcomes of events. 

The availability heuristic can have more significant consequences for many professional fields, as vivid images and emotional reactions have a more substantial influence than when thinking about a rational computation. For example, an insurance company may raise their rates for hurricane coverage not long after a big disaster, although the chances of it happening again are much lower. 

The mere exposure effect is a cognitive bias concept in which repeated passive exposure to something will result in increased liking of that stimulus. This means humans are more inclined to like things they are exposed to, such as a specific genre of music.

Considering this, it is easier to understand why people use the availability heuristic to make decisions easier. Being exposed to certain things ensures people will think about them more when needing to make a decision.

The Effects On Betting

In sports betting, the availability heuristic can sometimes explain why teams become a firm favorite or if many bets are placed on a bad team that may be on a winning streak. Uninformed bettors will reflect on the most recent and memorable results when making their bets. Novice bettors that place more than ten bets daily won’t have time to research each wager and are more likely to fall victim to the availability heuristic. 

Availability bias is implied in betting, just like many other daily activities. Bettors will sometimes overestimate the chances of important events happening during a game more frequently because they are more memorable and easier to come to mind. 

This behavior can negatively affect the bettor’s calculation of the probability and can lead to a potentially harmful betting style. This is also linked to the fact that bettors historically pick the over when making a totals bet, thinking that outcome has a higher probability. 

Overcommitment is another heuristic that can negatively affect some sports bettors. It’s similar to seeing a bad movie but staying until the end since you’ve already invested the money and time. 

In sports betting, it could be something such as sticking to a wager on a long shot with a high probability of losing instead of cashing out early and taking a much smaller loss. These bettors will show irrational behavior by being determined to go with their wrong decision instead of cutting their losses.

Winning streaks are important in any professional sport, which gives professional players confidence and contributes to a winning team culture. Unfortunately, many bettors place bets simply based on their belief that recent results are more critical when placing their bets than long-term outcomes. 

Even if a coin toss results in heads 20 times in a row, the next toss will still have a 50-50 chance of coming up tails. Availability bias can impede rational thinking and the way some people bet. 

How To Avoid It

To overcome the effects of the availability heuristic, you want to learn to make more educated decisions before placing a bet. If you see yourself about to rush into a decision, stop and take some time to think about it. 

Try to assess how informed you are about the pick and ask yourself where your judgment regarding the choice comes from. To make more informed decisions, bettors sometimes need to get their information from unbiased sources by trying to get alternate points of view. 

Recent trends in sports can sometimes cloud the bettor’s perception of reality. Looking at long-term trends will be more accurate in identifying patterns and will likely make it clearer when assessing them. 

The availability heuristic helps people make decisions faster but also increases the chance of that decision being wrong. Avoiding it can sometimes be difficult but is certainly not impossible. Want to learn more about Availability Heuristic? Follow us on Twitter

The Availability Heuristic FAQs

Yes. Sports betting is just one activity that can be affected by this bias. Even when playing casino games such as roulette, players sometimes find it difficult to avoid a long run of the ball landing on black, affecting how they place their next wager. Recent spins will not have any effect on the odds in the next spin.

In sports betting, the availability heuristic is when bettors give exaggerated probabilities to results based on recent results rather than long-term outcomes. This type of attitude when assessing risk can lead to poor decisions and result in losses. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many potential biases involving sports gamblers.

Yes. Sports betting providers know that players tend to wager on a team with a winning streak and avoid teams on losing streaks. Since bettors depend on recent outcomes more, the bookmaker will adjust its odds to underprice the favorite and over priced the underdogs. Of course, they also weigh the juice in favor of the team that’s been recently losing.

Heuristics help humans make choices based on their knowledge to make an educated decision. It’s how people take their personal experience and prior knowledge into account as an approach to problem-solving. For example, different heuristics can be used to learn and assess risk, which could be as simple as making a snap decision based on a quick impression of something. 

The common sense heuristic is probably used more than any other in daily life by taking a practical approach. For example, if it’s raining outside, everyone knows you should take an umbrella to stay dry.

This occurs because humans naturally tend to rely on readily available data that they are most familiar with. As a result, when making informed decisions, the brain must process more data than it can handle to make that decision quickly. 

Since we can’t accomplish both in a short period, the brain must choose between being efficient and being accurate. The way it does this is by taking a mental shortcut. These shortcuts are usually reliable but can sometimes be inaccurate and cause people to make the wrong decision. 

The availability heuristic confuses something ‘easy’ with something ‘true’ when making a decision. People tend to rely on the easy choice that comes to mind rather than the content of that choice and are more likely to miscalculate risks and make bad choices because of having inaccurate perceptions. This sometimes causes people to behave in ways that aren’t always in their best interest.