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Exploring Behavioural finance and understanding its basics

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The purpose of any investment is to make a profit and create wealth. While the financial goals may vary – from funding a foreign vacation to building a nest egg – the main motive is to get more returns than those possible with traditional banking products. While some investors may be more willing than others in terms of taking a higher level of risk, one thing is certain – nobody wants to lose money.

However, many investors often react in an irrational, reckless or hasty manner to market changes. But why do investors make such knee-jerk decisions? Behavioural finance gives us the answers.

  • Table of contents
  1. What is behavioural finance?
  2. What is the importance of behavioural finance?
  3. Types of cognitive biases in behavioural finance
  4. A practical example of behavioural finance
  5. FAQ

What is behavioural finance?

Behavioural finance is a discipline that focuses on finding out how human psychology affects the decision-making process of investors and the financial markets. It explains why investors make decisions based on their biases, emotions, and personal experiences instead of rational decisions backed by data and research.

What is the importance of behavioural finance?

Now that you know the behavioural finance meaning, you may be wondering why you need to understand it. The answer is simple-it can help you make better investment decisions.

Stock markets have been around since the 1600s. People have been investing in stocks for a long time. The process of finding suitable stocks, buying at the right time, and selling at an appropriate time has been refined through the centuries. Presently, there are more tools to analyse stocks and the stock market than ever. And thanks to technological advancements, data is now available at the click of a button and investors can analyse it in minutes if not seconds.

And yet, there is no dearth of investors making irrational decisions.

Clearly, something else is at play here – cognitive bias and limits to arbitrage. These are the two pillars of behavioural finance. Both offer answers to how emotions and biases affect share prices and financial markets. While cognitive bias influences how people behave, limits to arbitrage explain how effective or ineffective arbitrage forces are in different circumstances.

Types of cognitive biases in behavioural finance

Some of the common cognitive biases in behavioural finance are:

Self-attribution bias: When investors believe that a good outcome from their investment comes because of their skilful analysis and any bad outcome is a result of bad luck, it is known as self-attribution bias.

Loss aversion: Many investors lose out on sound investment opportunities when their focus is on trying to avoid a loss. This is known as loss aversion. It is important to note that even the most non-conservative investor can behave this way during their investment journey.

Confirmation bias: When investors believe any information, result or news related to an investment belief they have as a confirmation while ignoring any contradictory information, it is known as confirmation bias.

Herd mentality: If investors start following a trend instead of doing proper research, believing that others may have already done the research – it is known as herd mentality. In such cases, a small event has the potential to disrupt the market and economy.

Disposition bias: Some investors sell well-performing stocks and hold on to ill-performing stocks for a long time believing that the tide will turn. The stock prices continue to fall but they keep holding on to them, thinking that the price will soon increase, and they will make profits. This is known as disposition bias.

Representative bias: Sometimes investors believe that two independently existing things are correlated if they encounter them together on more than one occasion. This linking of two things or events leads to representative bias.

One or more of these cognitive biases come into play when an investor makes investing decisions.

A practical example of behavioural finance

The global financial markets experienced a significant drop during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even as most stocks plummeted, the pharmaceutical sector remained robust due to the increased demand for healthcare products.

Driven by fear and uncertainty, many investors started herd trading in pharma stocks believing them to be safe bets. Eventually, when the bubble burst and the sectoral stock prices corrected, many investors suffered huge losses.

This shows behavioural biases such as herding can lead to irrational investment decisions with investors ignoring fundamental analysis and chasing a prevalent trend. Understanding these behavioural tendencies can help investors make more rational decisions.

In conclusion, behavioural finance explains how human psychology works and affects the world of finance. It tells us that instead of thinking logically and rationally, investors let past experiences, personal preferences and beliefs cloud their judgement when they make investing decisions. By understanding and addressing these psychological factors, investors can potentially improve their financial outcomes.


What is behavioural finance?
Behavioural finance is a field that combines psychology and finance to understand how emotions and cognitive biases influence financial decision-making. It delves into why investors often deviate from rational choices and how these deviations impact markets and investment outcomes

How do emotions affect investment decisions?
Emotions like fear and greed can lead to impulsive investment choices. Investors may panic during market downturns or chase hot trends, often resulting in suboptimal returns.

What are common behavioural biases?
Common biases include overconfidence, loss aversion, and herd mentality. Overconfidence leads to excessive trading, while loss aversion causes investors to avoid losses at the expense of potential gains. Herd mentality makes individuals follow the crowd, often causing bubbles and crashes.

Can behavioural finance improve investment success?
Yes, understanding behavioural finance can help investors make more rational choices. Recognizing biases and emotions allows for better decision-making and long-term financial success.

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This document should not be treated as endorsement of the views/opinions or as investment advice. This document should not be construed as a research report or a recommendation to buy or sell any security. This document is for information purpose only and should not be construed as a promise on minimum returns or safeguard of capital. This document alone is not sufficient and should not be used for the development or implementation of an investment strategy. The recipient should note and understand that the information provided above may not contain all the material aspects relevant for making an investment decision. Investors are advised to consult their own investment advisor before making any investment decision in light of their risk appetite, investment goals and horizon. This information is subject to change without any prior notice.

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