It’s a well documented fact that people hate trading their players in fantasy football leagues. And despite the fact that in ten years of playing, I’ve managed to successfully negotiate a total of 11 trades, every year I still find myself spending hours discovering and analyzing seemingly perfect offers, only to get denied in seconds. Usually starting right after the draft. I research what the talking heads are saying, I look at the needs of the teams I’m offering a trade to, and I even use three trade analyzers to make sure it’s fair.

But the response is always the same: nope. LeGarrette Blount and Kyle Rudolph for Le’Veon Bell…nope. Kirk Cousins and Brandin Cooks for Rishard Matthews and Jordan Howard…nope. Antonio Brown, Travis Kelce, the Chiefs D, Aaron Rodgers, and my cat for Matt Prater and that week old guac that’s in your fridge…nope.

What? Really? He’s, like, a really good cat.

After spending years infuriated to the point of exhaustion and second-guessing my friendships, I finally looked into why I keep getting the same responses. And, as it turns out, behavioral economics has a perfect explanation, the Endowment Effect.

Now, the endowment effect is nothing new in fantasy football. Forbes, Some Dude on Reddit, and even this guy, have all written about it. But it deserves to be revisited. Over and over and over again. Why? Because it’s fucking ridiculous.

We as humans assign way more value to things we “own” than things we don’t. In a well-known study by Kahnmen, Knetsch and Thaler, participants were asked to assign a value to a mug. One set of participants assigned a price to a mug they owned, and another set stated the amount they’d pay to buy the same mug. The average value of the mug more than doubled when participants were selling their mug compared to the amount the other set of participants were willing to pay. This type of experiment has been done over and over again, and no matter the object used, the outcomes were relatively the same. We value things that we own more simply because we own them.

The endowment effect is entirely irrational but it’s real; other owners want to get more value for their players than you think they’re worth.

There are some opposing viewpoints on the endowment effect, and obviously there are other factors that play a role in our behavior including loss aversion, parasocial relationships, ego, and people offering legitimately terrible trades, but the endowment effect is likely the biggest hurdle you’re going to have to jump in order to make your trades.

So how can you use this information to help you? Honestly, it’s going to be tough. People are weird and you can blame evolution for that. The endowment effect is entirely irrational but it’s real; other owners want to get more value for their players than you think they’re worth.

You can try to use the endowment effect to your advantage by understanding that you’re no different than the person you’re trading with. So, take a step back from the Alex Smith for Le’Veon Bell trade that you’re proposing and ask yourself if you’re asking too much. Ultimately, you’re going to have to remove “ownership” from the equation – understand the real market value of your players and the players you’re trying to land. Look into trends, sell high on players when you can, be willing to take risks, and try, try again. Or, you know, accept that you’ll never make another trade again.

Author

Alex Schillinger is an editor and contributor at The Read Option.