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Cognitive Bias

List of the top 10 most important biases in behavioral finance

What is a Cognitive Bias?

A cognitive bias is an error in cognition that arises when a person’s line of reasoning when making a decision is flawed because of their own personal beliefs. Cognitive errors play a major role in behavioral finance theory and are studied by investors and academics alike. This guide will cover the top 10 most important types of biases.


Cognitive Bias theme


List of Top 10 Types of Cognitive Bias

Below is a list of the top 10 types of cognitive bias that exist in behavioral finance.


#1 Overconfidence Bias

Overconfidence results in the false assumption that an individual is superior to others, due to their own false sense of skill, talent, or self-belief. It can be a dangerous bias and is very prolific in behavioral finance and capital markets. The most common manifestations of overconfidence are: over ranking, the illusion of control, timing optimism, and the desirability effect.


#2 Self Serving Bias

Self serving bias is the propensity to attribute positive outcomes to skill and negative outcomes to luck.  In other words, we attribute the cause of something to whatever is in our own best interest. Many of us can recall times that we’ve done something and decided that if everything is going to plan it’s due to skill, and if things go the other way then its just bad luck.


#3 Herd Mentality

Herd mentality is when investors’ copy and follow what other famous investors are doing.  When they do this, they are being influenced by emotion, rather than by independent analysis. There are four main types: self-deception, heuristic simplification, emotion, and social.


#4 Loss Aversion

Loss aversion is a tenancy for investors to fear losses and avoid them with more emphasis than they focus on trying to make profits. Most investors would say it’s better not to lose $2,00 than to earn $3,000. The more losses one experiences, the more loss averse they will likely become.


#5 Framing Bias

Framing is when someone makes a decision because of the way information is presented to them, rather than based just o the facts. In other words, if someone sees the same facts but presented in different ways, they are likely to come to a different conclusion about the information. Investors may pick investment differently, depending on how the opportunity is presented to them.


#6 Narrative Fallacy

Narrative fallacy occurs because we naturally like stories and find they easier to make sense of and relate to. It means we can be prone to choose less desirable outcomes due to the fact they have a better story behind them.


#7 Anchoring Bias

Anchoring is the idea that we use pre-existing data as a reference point for all subsequent data, which can skew our decision-making processes. If you see a car that costs $85,000 and then another car that costs $30,000 you could be influenced to think the second car is very cheap. If you saw a $5,000 car first and the $30,000 one second, you may think it’s very expensive.


#8 Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the idea that people seek out information and data that confirms their ideas, and tend to ignore information that opposes it. It can be a very dangerous cognitive bias in business and investing.


#9 Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is the theory that when people predict a correct outcome, they attribute it to skills and talent and that they “knew all along.”


#10 Representativeness Heuristic

Representativeness heuristic is a cognitive bias that happens when people falsely believe that if two objects are similar, then they are also correlated with each other when it’s not the case.


Cognitive Bias in Behavioral Finance

To learn more about the important role cognitive biases play in behavioral finance and business, check out CFI’s Behavioral Finance Course.  The video-based tutorials will teach you all about errors in cognition and the types of traps investors can fall into.


Cognitive Bias in Behavioral Finance Course


Additional Resources

Thank you for reading this guide about the impact a cognitive bias can have on business professionals. CFI is the official provider of the FMVA financial analyst certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class analyst. To learn more, check these additional resources below:

  • Behavioral Finance Glossary
  • Behavioral Interview Questions
  • What is Financial Modeling?
  • Types of Financial Models

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