Evolutionary psychology highlights a Stone Age mentality hardwired into our brains and reflected in our behaviour and habits. For example, we tend to organise ourselves into groups in order to adapt more easily to different environments: behaviourally it is far less dangerous to be wrong in a group than to be right on our own. This explains the desire and impulse of an individual investor to follow the crowd.
In pricing fixed income securities, a lot hangs on the difference between the mean, median and mode. Markets reflect a probability-weighted average of potential outcomes (i.e. the mean); policymakers typically focus on the single most-likely outcome (i.e. the mode). Thinking carefully about the difference has important implications for how we view interest rate risks.
When making decisions, data on similar past decisions and their outcomes provide a useful starting point as a ‘base rate’. Too often though people ignore them or give them too little weight. Base rates of the historic performance of active fund managers provide an insight into the potential benefits and costs of choosing them in different asset classes.
With Philippe Coutinho and Alexis Sanchez staying at their clubs, the most recent football transfer window offers a great example of the availability bias at work and a counter example to the common investment adage “buy the rumour, sell the fact”.