trapped in incompetency or learning how not to play fantasy baseball


One of the great things about being a social scientist is that you can study almost anything that interests you.  Find something that fascinates you, and make it your object of study.  This is what two researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have done by studying the learning dynamics of fantasy baseball.  The following comes from an article on ScienceDaily (via The Situationist).

Fantasy baseball was the obvious answer when they began looking for games that are not console-based that involve “lots and lots of learning,” says Rich Halverson, an assistant professor in educational leadership and policy analysis and part of the UW-Madison’s Games, Learning and Society research group in the School of Education.

“There’s a lot of ways that people learn with new media that don’t really have anything to do with console-based video games,” he says. “People learn how to play the stock market, they learn how to find a mate, they learn how to negotiate in social spaces with sites like MySpace and Facebook.”…

It’s an area ripe for study. Sixteen million adults played fantasy sports in 2006, spending an average of just under $500 a year and generating an economic impact of more than $1 billion a year, according to the Fantasy Sports Industry Trade Association…

“Not only is it something we love, but this is a huge market of gaming that’s going on where people are spending thousands and thousands of hours playing,” Erica Halverson says. “As a research group, we’re fundamentally interested in what people learn from gaming and what gaming has to offer education. This is sort of a subset of gaming that’s a new avenue to explore.”

I seem to have learned myself into a hole in fantasy baseball.  The first year I ever played, I won, but it’s been a steady decline in quality since then.  This year I thought for sure that I would pull out of the slump, but I’m edging  closer to the basement of our league.  Actually, my failure to win after my first year may be a good example of a “competency  trap.”  According to Levitt and March, a competency trap occurs “when favorable performance with an inferior procedure leads an organization to accumulate more experience with it, thus keeping experience with a superior procedure inadequate to make it rewarding to use” (1988: 322).  Unfortunately, I can’t figure out what I learned my first year of fantasy baseball that has subsequently made me so incompetent.  Or there’s always theory #2 – winning this sort of thing is basically randomized, and so the idea that you’re controlling anything is just an illusion and is part of what makes the game fun!

Written by brayden king

July 27, 2007 at 3:25 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Brayden,

    Thanks for writing about something that’s truly important and consequential. :) If it makes you feel better, my brother played baseball in college, he’s a lifelong fan, and he’s near the bottom of his fantasy league.




    July 27, 2007 at 4:11 pm

  2. Thanks Eric. Just wait for my forthcoming post on why Barry Bonds is the best player of the steroids era and would have been even if he hadn’t been on the juice himself. Or my post on why baseball is a better sport for youngsters to learn than soccer. You have yet to see consequential my friend.



    July 28, 2007 at 7:04 am

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