As a mathematician and a psychologist from a network studying real-world decision-making under radical uncertainty, we work on the dangers of investing scientific models with phantastic (wished-for but unrealistic) power to resolve uncertainty and produce optimal solutions. In this short blog we discuss the dangers of forgetting that, in the context of uncertainty, successful anticipatory thinking is not about making good predictions, it is about agility when judging what information to gather to grasp an unfolding landscape, and constant curiosity about what might be left out. Algorithms – and humans masquerading as algorithms, or passing the buck to algorithms – are fragile decision-makers under many real-life conditions.Read More ‘Model Land’ and its phantasies threaten us all.
“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” Werner Heisenberg (1) I have been researching how humans make decisions in contexts of risk and uncertainty for nearly thirty years. Much of this has been in the context of financial markets but much of what I have learned seems […]Read More The need for constructive ambivalence during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The stories we tell ourselves about futures and the impact of our actions in them are important acts of imagination which enable us to act, despite uncertainty. However, they can also become over-comfortable refuges from the anxiety provoked by uncertainty and a route to disregarding important information and perspectives which challenge our certainties.Read More Grappling with uncertainty, and the emotions it provokes
“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” —Ursula K. LeGuin To listen to some scholars of decision-making, it is a great wonder that humans have survived as long as they have. We are constantly prone to biases, rely on simplistic […]Read More Different Minds: why we need human capabilities and machine intelligence*
It is common to contrast emotions with rationality (usually in tandem with proclaiming the superiority of reason over emotion). Take for example this post on the changingminds blog. It is also the claim at the heart of Ayn Rand’s morally barren apologia for the extremes of modern capitalism, ‘Atlas Shrugged‘. In this book she claims […]Read More On the false contrast between rationality and emotion
Money fractures marriages, drives wars, inspires art, motivates some people to great achievements, leads others to despair. Fear, desire, love, hate, jealousy, anger, anxiety, relief, shame and many more shades of emotion may attach to money in the course of an ordinary day. (Photo credit: @Doug88888) Yet, economic accounts of human financial behaviour focus on […]Read More Welcome to the emotional finance blog
A brief trawl of media comment on the banking industry over the last few years suggests that the industry is awash with criminals and fraudsters. The picture of traders, often presented in the press, is of amoral risk-takers with bosses who are always ready to turn a blind eye if profits are being made. There […]Read More LIBOR, rogue traders and the supply of motivated offenders
I am delighted to introduce a guest blog by Dr Daniel Richards about some research we collaborated on. The disposition effect describes a bias that causes investors to be more willing to sell investments that have risen in in value than those that have fallen in value. Our research shows that investors who rely less on emotions and intuition and investors who manage their emotions more effectively are less likely to show this investment bias.Read More On holding losers and selling winners: our emotional brains and the disposition effects
Myself and Jacqui Gabb discuss the importance of money and emotions in relationships.Read More Is it financial or emotional bankruptcy that cripples relationships?
In the video in this blog I discuss with the MoneyMail’s Rachel Rickard Straus the psychology of advertising, impulsive spending and self control.Read More Advertising and impulsive spending
I am delighted to introduce a guest blog by Kevin Rodgers, formerly global head of foreign exchange at Deutsche Bank, with an impressive career in trading. Kevin is also the author of a great new book which charts the major changes in investment banking ‘Why aren’t they shouting?’, not to mention a pretty good opera singer.Read More Anxiety, adrenaline and automation
Successful fraud requires both a set of skills and a willingness to deliberately target and deceive others. The most successful fraudsters have a capacity to look us in the eye, to engage our trust and then betray it without a qualm. This capacity is actually quite rare and often associated with personality disorder (or perhaps […]Read More Scams, Victims, and Scammers
“Money doesn’t talk it swears” Bob Dylan Differences in attitudes to money are a major cause of disagreements in relationships. Research shows that financial disagreements are one of the more frequent and less easily resolved causes of relationship conflict. One study found that whilst people are often attracted to potential partners with different emotional reactions to spending, that […]Read More Money and relationships
Let’s call him James, a trader in a City investment bank; young, smartly dressed, confident, and a little impatient. He sat across from me in the interview: “It’s really important to stay cool. For myself, I can say that I really don’t have much emotion while I trade”. Half an hour later, as he relaxed […]Read More ‘The heart has its reasons’: emotions and cognition in the world of finance
Here is a link to my interview with Michael Considine of Share Radio. Where I talk about my research on emotions and investment and the work of the True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance.Read More Interview on Share Radio
Hermit crabs rely on acquiring discarded shells for their protection and are constantly on the look-out for better shells. However, faced with environmental stress they prefer to stick with their old shell, however unsuitable, than risk moving to a new one[i]. Experiments with rats show that under stress habitual behaviour persists longer in the face […]Read More On fund-managers, rats and hermit crabs: reversion to familiar habits under stress
The Open University’s centre for the Public UnderStanding of Finance (PUFin) launches new MOOC Lead educator: Martin Upton, Director of the True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance (PUFin) at the Open University Business School, and former Treasurer of Nationwide Business Society Gain the skills to manage your personal finances: managing budgets, debts, […]Read More New Personal Finance MOOC