Bracketology 101: Overcoming Bias

Published on: 15:42PM Mar 21, 2013

I’ve filled out a NCAA bracket every year since 1995. I won my pool that year (UCLA over Arkansas!), a feat I haven’t achieved since. I realize my own biases are a big cause of my lack of success. Each year, I pay what I refer to as the "Kansas Tax" – a diehard University of Missouri fan, I usually scratch KU from the tournament in the early rounds, a move that nearly always costs me big points but keeps my conscience intact.

It’s important that we all recognize our own biases and work to overcome them. There are dozens of bias types. Here are seven common kinds that trip up even the best of us.

1. Post-purchase rationalization. You paid good money for it, so it must be the best. Anyone who put down $250,000 for a new tractor has probably experienced this.

2. The Peltzman effect. Also known as "risk compensation" – you have a tendency to take greater risks when there’s a high perception of safety. When commodity prices are high, remind yourself of this bias.

3. Planning fallacy. On average, tasks take longer to complete than we anticipate when planning for them.

4. Worse-than-average effect. You tend to believe that you’re worse than others when completing a difficult task. Don’t underestimate yourself!

5. Peak-end rule. You remember the peak and end of any event the best. For example, if someone asked me to recall the 2012 drought, I would immediately think about the brutal stretch of 100-degree days in early July.

6. Status quo bias. We prefer things to stay the same. "Staying the same" isn’t always the best strategy in farming, though, with unique challenges each year and with a rapidly changing technology toolbox.

7. Hindsight bias. You knew it all along. (Did you really?)

Tear down your biases, one by one, and you’ll almost certainly become a better farmer. Now, about those Jayhawks? They’re not going to make the Sweet 16 (at least, not in my bracket).