In the third instalment of this article series, we will explore some Group Psychology concepts that are ever-present on social media platforms such as Twitter. We will discuss how these social processes may affect your emotions and decision-making in FPL, and I will advise you on how to deal with them accordingly.
It is important to note, due to the incredibly positive nature of the FPL Community, this article will not advise you on how to cope with deliberate negativity and verbal abuse, as from personal experience this is particularly rare in our community.
Instead, this article will explore some of the unintentional, subconscious Psychological effects that occur as the result of the collective nature of Social Media, and advise you on how to avoid falling victim to such effects.
Specifically, in this article we will discuss the following:
- The Human Need to Belong
- The ‘Twitter Bubble’
- Herd Mentality and Groupthink
- Group Polarisation
- The Common Knowledge Effect (my personal favourite).
As Twitter is the platform I most heavily interact on –https://twitter.com/FPL__Raptor – I will use it as the main example. However, these concepts will apply to similar platforms such as Reddit and to some extent Instagram.
1. The Human Need to Belong
It is important to firstly note that our interaction and engagement on social media serves as an important method for satisfying our human need to ‘belong’.
Indeed, Baumeister and Leary (1995) explain that humans have “a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive, and impactful interpersonal relationships” (p.497).
Further, in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a motivational theory of human needs; bottom to top), the need to belong is the third need that must be met on the journey to self-actualisation (Maslow, 1943).
Therefore, I will not advise that FPL interactions on Twitter should be avoided, especially given the largely positive nature of the FPL Community. Twitter can help satisfy our desire to be involved in social interactions and relationships, which is key to satisfaction in life.
However, we must be aware of some key Psychological effects and intrinsic biases, otherwise we could fall victim to the ‘dark side’ of Twitter.
2. The ‘Twitter Bubble’
I want to begin by emphasising the concept of the “Twitter Bubble”. Often, it can feel as though Twitter is representative of all FPL managers and teams.
However, it only represents a very small percentage of the 7.6 million teams in FPL.
Further, not only are FPL Twitter accounts only a very small percentage of those actively playing FPL, it is often the case that only those that are successful in their decisions and GWs will post about it – people are less likely to post low scores and captaincy fails.
Therefore, to put this into perspective, when you see others succeeding whilst you are not, I advise you to think the following:
- Twitter only represents a small percentage of FPL managers.
- Often, only successful decisions will be posted and shared.
FPL example of the Twitter Bubble from GW35+ – The Case of Antonio
In GW35+, Michail Antonio scored four goals, collecting a total of 26 points, the highest of any player this season in FPL.
Scrolling through Twitter on Saturday afternoon, it appeared that a large quantity of FPL managers took the punt on Antonio and transferred him into their teams. There were even pictures being branded around of those that captained the Hammers’ main man.
This led to feelings of anxiety and regret, with many claiming they ‘almost brought him in‘ (hindsight bias) and that his haul had ‘ruined their weekend‘.
However, perhaps to your surprise, very few people owned Antonio for his mega-haul, and even fewer people captained him (see below graphic).
As shown in the above graphics by @FPLMeta, Antonio’s ownership (taken shortly after the game) was only 1.8%. This means that out of the ~ 7.6 million teams in FPL, only ~ 136,000 of these teams included Antonio.
Further, in the top 10k, only 207 managers owned Antonio, and only 9 managers captained him!
In fact, even with the more ‘popular’ and seemingly widely-owned Raheem Sterling, his ownership in the top 10k was only 12.16% at the time of the City game, and his overall ownership was only 16.38%.
That is incredibly low ownership for a premium player at a premium club, and surprisingly low considering how many people were Tweeting pictures of Sterling in their team.
This should emphasise the point that Twitter represents a very small percentage of FPL managers and FPL teams. Try to avoid feelings of anxiety and despair when your Twitter feed is filled with successful differential transfers and captaincy picks.
To reiterate, I advise you to think to yourself:
“Twitter only represents a small percentage of FPL Managers.”
3. Herd Mentality and Groupthink
We will now discuss some Psychological theories which explain how Social Media can affect (often negatively) our decision-making process, and the final outcome of our decisions.
Herd Mentality is a widely discussed phenomenon which explains the process by which an individual’s behaviour or beliefs conform to that of the majority in the community to which they belong (Kameda & Hastie, 2015).
This coordination of opinions and decisions within the ‘herd’ is amplified by social interactions (i.e. through social media) (Raafat, Chater, & Frith, 2009).
In relation to FPL Twitter, herd mentality would describe an instance where an FPL manager internalises the view of the FPL community as their own belief, and as such, decides to conform to the mass decision – they are making a decision they would perhaps not make on their own!
This is closely related to the concept of Groupthink. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when the fear (embarrassment) of disrupting the harmony within a community, results in the group failing to realistically appraise the idea and come up with logical alternatives (Janis, 1991).
In FPL, this can be seen when the FPL Community decides on the best captaincy option for an upcoming GW, and rather than suggest alternatives and appraise whether this is the best decision, the majority of FPL accounts will conform to the group decision and ‘jump on the bandwagon’.
So what can we do to avoid ‘Herd Mentality’ and ‘Groupthink’?
- When possible, log off of Twitter and make your transfer/captaincy decisions without the input and pressure from the community.
- Try to avoid (where possible) running polls and constantly seeking opinions on your team – otherwise, you will likely succumb to herd mentality.
- Seek multiple sources of information when making decisions. Use the community, use your gut feeling, use statistics, use the eye-test. This will limit your ability to be heavily influenced by a singular source such as Twitter.
- Do not be afraid to stand out! Make decisions that challenge the status quo, as this will add variety to the game and encourage other people to avoid the herd mentality.
- Do not be afraid to challenge and question ‘popular’ opinions! Ask people why they have made certain transfer moves. Challenge people’s captaincy choices and explain your differing opinion (but PLEASE do so in a positive manner).
Doing all of the above will limit your vulnerability to Herd Mentality and Groupthink, and will also encourage others to be more individualistic and make decisions on their own accord.
4. Group Polarisation
As well as heavily influencing the content of our decisions (i.e. what we actually decide to do), groups and communities on social media are capable of influencing our decisions to make them significantly more extreme – that being, Group Polarisation.
Group polarisation refers to the tendency for groups to shift toward more extreme decisions after group interaction, and also the natural inclination for groups to reach more extreme decisions than an individual (Lamm, 1988).
Safe individual opinions > Group interaction > Extreme group decision.
It is important to note that group polarisation intensifies the position/opinion already held by the majority of the group members (Jones & Roleosfma, 2000).
Therefore, group polarisation will not cause the group to come up with a crazy and outlandish idea, it will simply reinforce and amplify the view already held by the majority.
For example, if there are murmurings of captaining a differential option for a GW by multiple members of the community, group discussions and interactions on Twitter are likely to amplify these murmurings and polarise them, making it shift from a small possibility to the most obvious choice (e.g., Pulisic for GW36+).
So what should we do about group polarisation in relation to FPL Twitter?
I advise you to follow the following tips, which overlap with some of the tips from the previous section:
- If you spot an extreme or questionnable mass decision in the community, attempt to make sense of it logically and seek out information to question, challenge and improve this view. Do NOT just accept the decision as correct.
- Attempt to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and explore reasons why this extreme decision may not be the most advisable. This will lead to people being less likely to succumb to the polarisation.
5. The Common Knowledge Effect
The last Psychological concept we will look at in this article is the Common Knowledge Effect, which is a fairly under-appreciated part of Group Psychology, but one of the most interesting.
This concept describes the tendency for group members to only share and discuss information that is common knowledge between multiple group members, and to not bring unique knowledge to the discussion (Stasser & Titus, 1985).
This is represented and explained by a fantastic task that can be perfectly applied to FPL, called the ‘Hidden Profile Task’.
In the Hidden Profile task, information that is made public to the entire group will point to Option A being better. However, Option B is instead the objective ‘better’ choice, but the pieces of evidence that support Option B are only shown to an individual member – they are not common knowledge.
To summarise, Option A appears better to the entire group, however, one member has knowledge that shows Option B is better.
Most of the time, the group will spend the majority of the time reviewing and discussing the facts that suggest that Option A is better (as this is the common knowledge), and as such never discover the limitations of Option A and the benefits of option B (Stasser & Titus, 1987).
Worryingly, Lu, Yuan, and McLeod (2012) demonstrated that when there are ‘hidden profiles’ in groups (that being, members do not share all of their knowledge), the group is 8 TIMES LESS LIKELY TO ARRIVE AT THE CORRECT DECISION!
Therefore, FPL managers, here is my advice to avoid the common knowledge effect:
- Share any information which may or may not be relevant! Do not be afraid to stand out, or to be a ‘maverick’ – it may be that your information is vitally important to helping the community avoid making a devastating mass decision!
- Explore different types of methods of analysis. Use multiple websites, look for new and exciting ways to analyse the statistics – any new and ‘hidden’ knowledge that can be delivered to the community will help to avoid the common knowledge effect.
- Do not hide information in an attempt to gain an advantage over the community. Share information, be positive, help each other out. Let your unique knowledge help the community.
Conclusions and Final Advice
My overall advice would be this:
“When making decisions in Fantasy Premier League, consider the nature of Twitter and the cognitive biases at play, and do your best to make decisions on your own behalf. If this is not possible for you due to the pressure and fear of missing out, log off of Twitter, and make the decision by yourself.
Lastly, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO STAND OUT. Without the diversity of individual decisions, Twitter and FPL would be a dull and uninspiring experience, and the community would regularly make poor mass decisions – be your own person!”
If you enjoyed the topics discussed in this article, Simon (owner and creator of FPLConnect.blog) wrote an article last year on a similar topic, which is worth reading – https://fplconnect.blog/2019/08/30/my-advice-on-avoiding-group-think-and-funnelling-the-noise-of-the-masses/.
This was written and produced by @FPL__Raptor – click the link to follow him on Twitter, to get more Psychological musings in relation to FPL, to keep up to date with his own progress, or to just be friendly and say hello.
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.
Jones, P. E., & Roelofsma, P. H. M. P. (2000). The potential for social contextual and group biases in team decision-making: biases, conditions and psychological mechanisms. Economics, 43(8), 1129-1152.
Kameda, T., & Hastie, R. (2015). Herd Behavior. In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource, 1-14. Wiley Online Library.
Lamm, H. (1988). A review of our research on group polarisation: eleven experiments on the effects of group discussion on risk acceptance, probability estimation and negotiation positions. Psychological Reports, 62, 807-813.
Lu, L., Yuan, Y. C., & McLeod, P. L. (2012). Twenty-five years of hidden profiles in group-decision making: a meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16(1), 54-75.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.
Raafat, R. M., Chater, N., & Frith, C. (2009). Herding in Humans. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 420-428.
Stasser, G., & Titus, W. (1985). Pooling of unshared information in group decision making: biased information sampling during group discussion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 1467-1478.
Stasser, G., & Titus, W. (1987). Effects of information load and percentage of shared information on the dissemination of unshared information during group discussion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 81-93.
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