Understanding Sports Betting Psychology

About Fox-Hedgehog Dichotomy in Sports Betting

Renowned scholars dating back to the Grecians era have often used fox-hedgehog analogy for characterising some important traits that accurately illustrate how we think and how our ability of successfully predicting events is impacted by them. An individual’s efforts related to measuring predictive ability of sports bettors and relating it to the Fox-Hedgehog dichotomy provided some interesting insights into gambling that any sports bettor would find to be eye-opening!

Improving one’s betting skills is a lot about making more accurate predictions. It’s a challenge which transcends the gambling activity, and can have major implications on other spheres of life such as politics, civic planning, finance and more as well. On the whole, it closely relates to and shows how we think.
Looking into the works of Greek poet Archilochus, he had suggested that while foxes know of several things, the hedgehogs know one big thing. Many important thinkers have further expanded on this interesting concept and suggested that the manner in which people normally think can be generally categorized as being hedgehog or fox like.
One of the major difficulties faced in accurately measuring the predictive ability of people is that the very same fields where implications of such accurate predictions is so profound, for instance, events like Iraq war, poor intelligence etc., the accountability is rare and in most cases very hard to pin down. However, one individual managed to track many such predictions for more than 20 years, thoroughly exploring what exactly are good and bad judgements made up of, using nothing but the hedgehog vs Fox analogy. Going through his insights can make a majorly pertinent and fascinating reading for sports bettors and gamblers!
This individual is known as Philip Tetlock. He had spent over 20 years recording various predictions made by politicians, professors, journalists and government officials. Philip discovered that more than 28,000 predictions recorded by him were only marginally more accurate compared to them being a mere matter of chance. His approach and entire work was summarised in his book: “Expert Political Judgement? How Good Is It? How Can We Know?,” released in the year 2005.
Philip developed several different adjustments and calibrations so as to stay completely fair while making those predictions. His results were shocking to say the least, effectively suggesting that when combined together, the predictions made by all these experts were only slightly better than mere chance happenings!
However, Philip didn’t write off all the forecasters. He successfully distinguished the characteristics which identify a person as being more-able and better-suited for making accurate predictions. All these characteristics are equally valuable regardless of whether you use them for making consistently correct sports predictions or for making some complex policy decisions.
His approach was basically to overlook specific successes, for instance how many times have we seen talking heads and tipsters banking on some headline-grabbing prediction? Rather, Philip gave considerably more credit to regular predictive successes over a period of time, and in different contexts.
He didn’t just reduce the success of making a correct prediction to a yes / no assessment, as prediction is as much about making it as it’s about the speed at which you recognise your errors and make quick belief-related adjustments.
Although we may not do complete justice to Philip Tetlock’s work by summarising it in a few words, however, the key take away for all aspiring sports bettors and gamblers from it is to always focus your energies on thinking in the right manner.

Following is a short summary table which outlines the important hedgehog-like and fox-like characteristics of individuals.

Fox like characteristics
Adaptable – He tries several approaches at the same time, or finds a new one in case things aren’t going his way
Multidisciplinary – Incorporates several ideas from different disciplines
Cautious – His predictions are more qualified and probabilistic
Self-critical – He’s willing to admit his mistakes and readily adapts, or even replaces an existing model based on fresh data
Empirical – He always prefers observable data over anecdotes or theory
Tolerates complexity – He accepts the fact that world is a complex place and that we can’t reduce some things to a null hypothesis

Hedgehog like characteristics
Unshakeable – He doesn’t mind using fresh data for refining an already existing original model
Confident – You’ll rarely see him changing or hedging his position
Specialised – He often dedicates himself to one or two major problems and is normally sceptical of outsiders’ participation
Stubborn – You’ll often see him blaming poor luck for his mistakes
Ideological – He approaches predictive problems with the same view that he has of the wider world
Order-seeking – He assumes relationships to be relatively uniform once certain patterns are detected

The Fox-like approach is a more agile one, allowing for adjustments and refinements based on changing circumstances. Anyone who knows about Bayesian analysis and applies it regularly would quickly understand the connection.
The Bayesian theorem employs iterative process for assessing all that you know about the chances / probability of a certain future event. It then tests the probable impact of the new evidence, as and when it becomes available. Bayes had all the Fox-like characteristics and was an English Presbyterian minister in the 18th century.
Obviously, such Fox-like approach doesn’t automatically mean infallibility. It’s inevitable to get things wrong from time to time, but the key thing is using an approach which maximises your chances of getting them right most of the times.
So, figure out which animal characteristics you display when you’re thinking about certainty and predictability? Doing so may help you significantly in your betting endeavours!