Behavioral finance is the study of the influence of psychology on the behavior of investors or financial analysts. It also includes the subsequent effects on the markets. It focuses on the fact that investors are not always rational, have limits to their self-control, and are influenced by their own biases.
Traditional Financial Theory
In order to better understand behavioral finance, let’s first look at traditional financial theory.
Traditional finance includes the following beliefs:
Both the market and investors are perfectly rational
Investors truly care about utilitarian characteristics
Investors have perfect self-control
They are not confused by cognitive errors or information processing errors
The concept of self-deception is a limit to the way we learn. When we mistakenly think we know more than we actually do, we tend to miss information that we need to make an informed decision.
#2 Heuristic Simplification
We can also scope out a bucket that is often called heuristic simplification. Heuristic simplification refers to information-processing errors.
Another behavioral finance bucket is related to emotion, but we’re not going to dwell on this bucket in this introductory session. Basically, emotion in behavioral finance refers to our making decisions based on our current emotional state. Our current mood may take our decision-making off track from rational thinking.
#4 Social Influence
What we mean by the social bucket is how our decision-making is influenced by others.
Top 10 Biases in Behavioral Finance
Behavioral finance seeks an understanding of the impact of personal biases on investors. Here is a list of common financial biases.
There are ways to overcome negative behavioral tendencies in relation to investing. Here are some strategies you can use to guard against biases.
#1 Focus on the Process
There are two approaches to decision-making:
Reflexive – Going with your gut, which is effortless, automatic and, in fact, is our default option
Reflective – Logical and methodical, but requires effort to engage in actively
Relying on reflexive decision-making makes us more prone to deceptive biases and emotional and social influences.
Establishing logical decision-making processes can help protect you from such errors.
Get yourself focused on the process rather than the outcome. If you’re advising others, try to encourage the people you’re advising to think about the process rather than just the possible outcomes. Focusing on the process will lead to better decisions because the process helps you engage in reflective decision-making.
#2 Prepare, Plan and Pre-Commit
Behavioral finance teaches us to invest by preparing, by planning, and by making sure we pre-commit. Let’s finish with a quote from Warren Buffett.
“Investing success doesn’t correlate with IQ after you’re above a score of 25. Once you have ordinary intelligence, then what you need is the temperament to control urges that get others into trouble.”