Lately I’ve been thinking about rationality. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the ways that economic models presuppose that individuals consistently act in their rational self-interest (and what economists count as a rational self-interest).
Lately, I’ve also been thinking about my fantasy baseball team. I know that many OPers play or have played in fantasy baseball leagues where you set a daily lineup. In such leagues, if you have, say, four outfielders on your roster, but only the standard three outfield spots, then you have to leave one outfielder on the bench (meaning that player’s stats don’t count for that day). I am confident that if you’ve played in such a league, you’ve had this experience. Two players have similarly promising matchups against opposing pitchers. The player you didn’t start hits two home runs. The player you decided to start goes 0 for 4. You are pissed.
So far, your feelings are easy to explain in terms of rational self-interest. What I find difficult to explain is this: I often find myself hoping that the player on the bench has a bad game. This emotion is particularly strong when the player I did start has already had a bad game. As far as I can tell, there is no sense in which the bench player performing poorly is in my interests. His stats won’t count either way. They are extremely unlikely to help my opponent (say by driving in his players) or hurt my starters. On the other hand, if my player performs well on a given day, I have some reason to believe that he will continue to perform well in the future, be worth more to my opponents in trades, etc.
Still, I inevitably find myself rooting against him (and then scolding myself for thinking irrationally). I suppose that it is in my interests as manager to believe that I am a good fantasy baseball manager (perhaps I will make more confident, decisive decisions). That explanation strikes me as unsatisfactory. What gives?
With that, I leave it to readers to speculate whether this phenomenon teaches us anything about economics.