Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)



Program Name/Specialization

Cognitive Neuroscience


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Jeffry Jones

Advisor Role



Sports bettors tend to rely on statistical information about an athlete or team’s past performance even though this type of information often has no predictive value. The belief that this statistical information can help predict future performance is typically held by experts and novices alike. A recent study conducted by Cheng and colleagues (in preparation) suggests that sports bettors do not process decision outcomes that are based on relevant information in the same way that they process decision outcomes based on irrelevant information. Specifically, they found differences in the event-related potential component known as Feedback-Related Negativity (FRN), such that FRNs were larger in response to outcomes of betting decisions made on information considered to be relevant (i.e., predictive) compared to outcomes based on decisions made on information considered to be irrelevant. The different levels of expectancies indexed by the FRN occurred regardless of the true predictive power of the information guiding the betting decisions. In the present thesis, we tested whether previous experience as a fan of a sport would influence the expectations regarding the predictive power of statistical information. In three experiments, the FRN amplitudes in response to receiving outcomes that resulted from betting decisions made using a well-known hockey statistic (GAA: goals against average) were recorded from hockey fans and non-fans. In Experiment 1 participants had a 75% probability of receiving the expected win trial when they selected the more favourable team (i.e. lower GAA) in a relevant information condition, and the same 75% chance of winning they selected a team based on their team name (irrelevant condition). Results showed the effects of information relevance among fans only and there were no differences between fans and non-fans in response to outcomes that violated expectancy in the relevant condition. In Experiment 2 the probability of winning a bet was set to 50% in both the relevant and irrelevant conditions. Results showed that effects of information relevance were absent among fans and non-fans, and fans did not show larger FRN amplitudes compared to non-fans in the relevant condition. In Experiment 3 only relevant information was presented and participants performed the first part of the experiment with a 75% probability of receiving a win when they selected the more favourable team, and a 50% probability in the second half of their session. Results showed no differences between fans and non-fans when outcomes violated their expectancy when the more favourable team was selected. The P300 component was also investigated and generally showed larger amplitudes in response to loss trials when they were less frequent (i.e. when the probability of receiving a win was 75%). Overall, the results confirm that the perceived relevance of statistic information affects the processing, but that very little experience with that statistic is necessary to produce expectancies.

Convocation Year