Coaches and managers are like all of us: they only look for what confirms their intuitions and ignore what contradictions their intuitions, what psychologists call confirmation bias – a vastly interesting cognitive tendency I havewritten about before. Confirmation bias helps explain a lot. It’s the Republican who only watches Fox or the Democrat who only watches MSNBC; it’s the lady who sees Mary in toast or the creationist who sees fossils as evidence of God; it’s the grad student who can’t see any flaws in his work or the professor who only looks for evidence that supports her study. We automatically see the world as we want to, not how it is.
This article also appears as a chapter in the Scientific American ebook The Science of Sports: Winning in the Olympics