Daniel Kahneman: The One Question That Most Investors Can’t Answer

Johnny HopkinsDaniel KahnemanLeave a Comment

In his book – Thinking Fast And Slow, Daniel Kahneman says there is one question that most investors can’t answer in order to be successful. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Why do investors, both amateur and professional, stubbornly believe that they can do better than the market, contrary to an economic theory that most of them accept, and contrary to what they could learn from a dispassionate evaluation of their personal experience?

Many of the themes of previous chapters come up again in the explanation of the prevalence and persistence of an illusion of skill in the financial world.

The most potent psychological cause of the illusion is certainly that the people who pick stocks are exercising high-level skills. They consult economic data and forecasts, they examine income statements and balance sheets, they evaluate the quality of top management, and they assess the competition.

All this is serious work that requires extensive training, and the people who do it have the immediate (and valid) experience of using these skills. Unfortunately, skill in evaluating the business prospects of a firm is not sufficient for successful stock trading, where the key question is whether the information about the firm is already incorporated in the price of its stock.

Traders apparently lack the skill to answer this crucial question, but they appear to be ignorant of their ignorance. As I had discovered from watching cadets on the obstacle field, subjective confidence of traders is a feeling, not a judgment. Our understanding of cognitive ease and associative coherence locates subjective confidence firmly in System 1.

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