articles tagged with: behavioral
As evidence continues to mount that established models of rational decision-making are dangerously out of date, behavioral science has embraced human irrationality in all of its deceptively predictable forms. At the forefront of the field is Duke University professor Dan Ariely, whose simple experiments into human bias have shed light on everything from the fallacy of supply and demand to the problem of procrastination.
featured, financial crisis, history & society »
Armies of bulls and bears are camped out on either side of the great debate over the future of the global economy. Armed with the latest statistics and plenty of financial incentive, both sides are engaged in massive media campaigns to rally anyone left on the fence — principally retail investors who were either burned in the great collapse of 2008-09 or sat out the fast and furious rally over the past 14 months. As the rhetoric heats up, it becomes increasingly difficult to choose sides. A careful examination of these competing wagers provides a more holistic perspective for anyone brave enough to join the fight.
Churchill argued that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. With capitalism now falling under similar fire, modern politicians, businesspeople and academics are once again questioning both the failures of free markets and the failures of government. As pundits gather on either side of the debate — casting blame and contempt across the regulatory divide — one often overlooked explanation for all the recent chaos is the time-honored tendency for human society to self-destruct. Behavioral economists and psychologists are having a field day watching our worst decision-making biases play themselves out in political and capital markets.
“America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong.”
financial crisis, in other words »
As rare proof that not all ex-Goldman bankers are great vampire squids wrapped around the face of humanity, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney turns his gaze toward households as the holidays approach with some keen macro observations and their implications for micro decision-making. Though the central bank recently raised flags about Canadian household finances and talk of a real estate bubble has begun to resurface, this public address seems measured both in its observations and its conclusions, and reflects well on the current poster child of responsible 21st century monetary governance…
featured, financial crisis, history & society »
In the midst of a global financial pandemic, private enterprise finds itself under the public microscope yet again — as it did during the 1930s after a century of unbridled growth and later in the 1970s after decades of stifling regulatory oversight. With this 21st century changing of the guard, the theoretical bases for free market capitalism are now under academic and legislative review. At the heart of the debate is the accuracy of the economic models taught to college students around the planet as though they were immutable physical laws.
“The human mind cannot grasp the causes of phenomena in the aggregate. But the need to find these causes is inherent in man’s soul. And the human intellect, without investigating the multiplicity and complexity of the conditions of phenomena, any one of which taken separately may seem to be the cause, snatches at the first, the most intelligible approximation to a cause, and says: ‘This is the cause!’ ”
— Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Book IV, Part 2, Chapter 1, first paragraph
This TED talk by mathematician Steven Strogatz “shows how flocks of creatures (like birds, fireflies and fish) manage to synchronize and act as a unit when no one’s giving orders”. The parallels to market behavior and financial panic are implicit but obvious. We often perceive of our decisions during a crisis as unique and self-preservational, but the tendency toward spontaneous order is a powerful impulse. Coordinated reaction to natural threats, be it a hungry seal or predator hawk, can often increase a group’s biological fitness and probility of survival, while a coordinated reaction to financial crises can actually amplify individual risk – like Strogatz’s example of London’s Millenium Bridge – and only make matters worse…
Economics is converging with everything these days, from the environment to the grocery store to the bedroom. This time, the playing field is none other than the human brain itself, and the results are less surprising than they are empirically fascinating. Contrary to conventional thinking, it turns out that people won’t always act in the own best interests, and that’s as true for investing and gambling as it is for adultery and employment…
by JOHN CASSIDY in the New Yorker
What neuroeconomics tells us about money and the brain.
Like many people who have accumulated some savings, I invest in the stock market. Most of my retirement money is invested in mutual funds, but now and again I also buy individual stocks. …