Ask Your Football Neuroscientist (Part 2): Renee Miller

Read Part One

You can’t contain Renee Miller into one part of an interview. Let’s finish up #confirmationbiasstrong.

Can you let us know what your favorite bias is from the book, and why it’s so dear to your heart? I have acknowledged that the Pseudocertainty Effect is my favorite. It’s not just the impossible name; you can’t easily work it into casual conversation, I promise you. It’s the fact that it’s both effortless and beneficial to us. This bias helps you make the most of your circumstances. It is a sort of subconscious cost-benefit analysis in the form of a gut feeling. (People don’t realize how many connections there are between the stomach and the nervous system.) [Zach note: This is called the chicken wings on NFL Sunday bias.] The Pseudocertainty Effect says that when things are going good, let it ride. When things are going badly, shake it up. The real life and fantasy sports implications are basically identical. You can see it as I discuss what happened when I got a flat tire on my way to a friend’s cottage on a perfect day last summer. Sometimes you can only win if you do something crazy.

How are the biases handled differently in daily fantasy? Most of the biases related to valuation don’t come into play in daily fantasy, and neither does Pseudocertainty. [Zach note: What’s the first DFS site to hit on this and start marketing with the catchy “Fewer Cognitive Biases Here!” campaign.] Recency is probably the most prevalent cognitive bias you see in DFS, but it’s not necessarily bad. Much more weight is given to situational aspects of the game, things like weather, matchup, pace, over/under. There are certainly ways to overthink, misinterpret, and rationalize when it comes to DFS, but it’s easier to play unbiased, in my experience.

I hear you’re quite the daily NBA fantasy player. What’s the difference between daily NBA and daily NFL? I love daily NBA so much. I prefer seasonal NFL to daily NFL, though naturally, I still play some. I’m now getting my feet wet in daily MLB as well and I’m loving it despite some bad days this first week. The biggest difference between NBA/MLB and NFL DFS is the timing. A week is a long time to prepare a “daily” roster. During that week, a few things can happen. Lineups can change, affecting value. For instance, WR vs the Patriots did a lot better when A. Talib was out last year. On some DFS sites, news about those kind of injuries cause player pricing to fluctuate during the week, making it hard to know when is the best time to join games (while you can make changes to your lineup, the prices you start with are the prices you’re stuck with. On the other hand, if you wait too long, games fill). You can second-guess yourself with all that time, tinkering and making changes that may or may not be beneficial (these laments make up half my Sunday timeline). In the background is the most powerful NARRATIVE machine on the planet, spinning all kinds of stories about the upcoming games. I debunked a few common narratives that could influence sit/start decisions in an article last fall at RotoViz. I mean, when someone (or some network) is playing up a rivalry, or a bounceback game, or whatever 24/7, you get to the point where you feel like you’d be an idiot to not play the guy. You just don’t get that during the day-to-day grind of NBA. There are storylines, of course, but they aren’t as pervasive, and they obviously have a short shelf life.

Jets fan? If so, how does your brain deal with that on a yearly basis? NO. Who told you that?? Not even close. [Zach note: See, your day has improved already.] I am notoriously not a fan of any team– just love the sport in general. Every year I pick teams that I think will do well based on their draft, situation, division, coach, etc. avoiding the obvious favorites. Last year it was KC and TB. It’s very early for me, but I’m tentatively going to double down with TB and go CLE for 2014. I reserve the right to change that after the pre-season, but mention it because for me, the fun is in appreciating what is being done right in the NFL regardless of where it’s happening.

Will you continue to write for Rotoviz? What are your fantasy writing plans for the future? I hope to contribute to RotoViz again in the fall. The stuff they’re doing this off-season is amazing though. You’ve got to check out Scott Smith’s fantasy footprint and Jon Moore’s Phenom Index! The Fantasy Douche and the whole team at RotoViz deserve huge respect for the tools they’ve developed to help you evaluate fantasy football and you’re definitely missing out if you don’t subscribe!

I’m hoping to continue writing about daily fantasy games strategy at RotoWire.com (I have an NBA DFS series currently). I’ll also be joining the FantasyInsiders.com team this spring to write about my experiences as a daily MLB newbie.

As I mentioned above, I’ll be writing a few fantasy football articles this summer for DraftSharks.com, a really great group based in Rochester, NY right around the corner from me! [Zach note: Can I say bidding war?]

From Mr. Rittle, he wants to know about your stance on blue versus green boxes on iPhones and dating. LOL. Mr. Rittle thinks my stance on this issue is snobby and shallow, but I’m the girl here, so we all know my stance is correct. Here’s the thing. If you text an iPhone girl and it comes through blue, well, then you’ve cleared like 75% of dating hurdles. You automatically share significant values, by virtue of both choosing iPhone and all that Apple stands for. If your text to the new iPhone girl comes through green, it’s disappointing. I won’t say deal breaker, but definite loss of enthusiasm. Presumably, this only matters if the girl in question has an iPhone, but the good ones do! [Zach note: There might be a slightly larger potential audience for a book on dating and cognitive biases.]

You know this one’s coming. Football or sex, what do you think of more? Right now? Baseball. [Zach note: For the first time in the history of this question, my eyes, they burn.] Then sex, followed by basketball, and finally football. That obviously changes with the season, and also if/when I have a boyfriend.

Is there a “woman cave” for maximum football watching on NFL Sundays? Ha! I’m constantly jealous of the serious man caves I hear about. At my house, sadly there is no woman cave. (Incidentally, the first thing I thought of when I saw woman cave was shoes! I’m afraid if there were such a place, my shoes would take it over). When I watch football at home, I love the RZC for all the early games, but I’m usually with my family at my parents’ house. Sundays are all about family and football, with the kids throwing the ball in the yard, my dad, brother and I obsessing over our fantasy teams, and my step-mom cooking something delicious for dinner. No cave needed.

Which football writers are on your must-read list? I read everything at RotoViz; articles by Shawn Siegele and Ryan Roulliard always make lasting impressions on how I approach the game. I already miss reading Bryan Fontaine at PFF. Sal Stefanile’s work on 2QB leagues is great—my main league is a 2QB and Sal is really great to talk to about it. I can’t help but click links to these guys’ work: Denny Carter, Jonathan Bales, and Chet Gresham. I read the 2MugsFF.com stuff by Rumford Johnny and Ryan Forbes, and enjoy the work at ProFootballFocus.com and TheFakeFootball.com. I just took over a couple dynasty teams for the Fantasy Douche, one in the RotoViz league, so I’m going to need to add the DLF guys to this list and soon! Last season one of my favorite ways to be educated and entertained at the same time was watching the XN Sports Fantasy Football Hangout with Sal Stefanile and Rich Hribar and the Sports Wunderkind Podcast with Davis Mattek and Coleman Kelly.

Tell me about a hobby/interest outside of football. I’m pretty into yoga. It’s not just so I can look good in the clothes, either! In yoga, which translates as “to yolk” (as in oxen), the idea is to use the breath to unite the strength of the muscular body with the gentle stillness of the spirit to accomplish feats you once thought were unattainable. Whether it’s doing some crazy arm balance, handstand, or a split, every bit of physical progress is matched by mental progress that can be translated into everyday life. Two lessons I’ve learned from yoga: “everything is perfect as it is right now” (acceptance) and “anything is possible” (practice).

I also love doing anything outdoors. I hike, camp, ski, fish, sunbathe, have a garden… you name it- if there’s sun, I’m there.

Is there anything I failed to ask that you’d like to address? Hmmmm I think you were pretty thorough! I do want to say how much I truly appreciate everyone I’ve “met” in the fantasy sports community. I’m continually inspired by the creativity, cleverness, and hard work all around me. Very little is worth doing that isn’t fun, so thanks to a few of the guys that keep me laughing on Twitter: David Kitchen, both Drew and Jim Dinkmeyer, Dan Tuttle, Kyle McKeown, and Ricky Sanders. Finally, I still can’t believe how supportive people are of my work, especially given that I don’t fit your typical fantasy expert profile. Thanks for interviewing me, Zach!

Tell me about any plugs you’d like. Sites, podcasts, projects, anything. Visit my web site, where I sell my book (only $3) and post links to all my articles. Go there for basically everything I’ve written about sports!

“Big ups” to Renee for answering my questions and putting up with my comments. Follow her on Twitter.

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