Cognitive Biases

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on September 04, 2023

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What Are Cognitive Biases?

Cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviation from rational thinking, which influence individuals' judgments and decisions. In the context of finance, these biases can impact how people manage their investments, assess risks, and make critical financial decisions.

Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts or heuristics that people use to simplify complex situations. They often lead to irrational decisions, as they are based on subjective judgments rather than objective facts.

Cognitive biases can adversely affect financial decision-making by causing individuals to make suboptimal choices. These biases can lead to poor investment decisions, market inefficiencies, and reduced overall returns.

Common Cognitive Biases in Finance

Cognitive biases play a significant role in shaping financial decisions. This section outlines some of the most common biases in finance and their consequences.

Overconfidence Bias

Overconfidence bias is the tendency to overestimate one's knowledge and abilities. This can lead to excessive trading, excessive risk-taking, and ultimately, suboptimal investment outcomes.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs.

This can lead to investors focusing on information that supports their views while ignoring contradictory evidence, leading to suboptimal decisions.

Anchoring Bias

Anchoring bias occurs when individuals rely too heavily on an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments.

In finance, this can result in investors being influenced by irrelevant historical prices or events, leading to poor investment decisions.

Loss Aversion Bias

Loss aversion bias is the tendency to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains of equal value.

This can cause investors to hold onto losing investments for too long, hoping for a turnaround, while selling winners too quickly, limiting their potential gains.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is the tendency to believe, after an event has occurred, that one would have predicted or expected the outcome.

This can lead to overconfidence in one's ability to predict future market movements, resulting in poor investment decisions.

Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic is the tendency to overestimate the importance of information that is readily available or easily recalled.

This can lead to investors focusing on recent news or events, causing them to make investment decisions based on incomplete or irrelevant information.

Common Types of Cognitive Bias

Effects of Cognitive Biases on Investment Performance

Cognitive biases are inherent psychological tendencies that can distort our judgment, leading to irrational decisions in various aspects of life, including investing.

In the financial market, these biases can significantly impact investment performance for both individual and professional investors, ultimately influencing the overall efficiency of the market.

Individual Investors

Individual investors, particularly those with limited experience and knowledge in the financial markets, are more prone to succumbing to cognitive biases.

These biases may manifest in different forms, such as overconfidence, confirmation bias, or loss aversion, causing investors to make suboptimal investment decisions.

As a result, individual investors may experience lower returns on their investments and expose themselves to higher levels of risk than necessary.

Professional Investors

Even professional investors, such as fund managers and financial analysts, are susceptible to cognitive biases.

Despite their extensive expertise and resources, these professionals may still fall prey to biases like groupthink, anchoring, or herding.

Consequently, cognitive biases can negatively affect their investment performance, leading to underperformance of the funds they manage and, in turn, impacting their clients' returns.

Market Efficiency

The presence of cognitive biases among market participants can contribute to market inefficiencies. Mispricing of assets can occur as investors make decisions based on their biases, leading to the formation of bubbles or crashes in the market.

This mispricing means that markets may not always accurately reflect the true value of assets.

However, these inefficiencies can also create opportunities for astute investors who can identify and capitalize on the discrepancies between perceived and intrinsic values, potentially yielding higher returns.

Strategies for Mitigating Cognitive Biases in Finance

There are several strategies that investors can adopt to mitigate the impact of cognitive biases on their financial decision making.

Education and Awareness

By understanding and recognizing cognitive biases, investors can take steps to minimize their influence on decision making.

This includes learning about common biases, reflecting on past decisions, and being mindful of potential biases when making future choices.


Diversification, or spreading investments across various asset classes and industries, can help reduce the impact of cognitive biases.

By diversifying, investors can avoid over-concentration in specific investments that may be influenced by their biases, ultimately reducing risk and improving portfolio performance.

Long-Term Investing Perspective

Adopting a long-term investing perspective can help investors avoid making impulsive decisions driven by cognitive biases.

By focusing on long-term goals and strategies, investors can minimize the impact of short-term market fluctuations and reduce the likelihood of being swayed by their biases.

Employing Evidence-Based Strategies

Using evidence-based strategies, such as index investing or following established investment models, can help investors minimize the influence of cognitive biases.

By relying on objective data and systematic approaches, investors can make more rational and informed decisions.

Seeking Professional Advice

Working with a trusted financial advisor can help mitigate the impact of cognitive biases. Financial advisors can provide an unbiased perspective, identify potential biases, and guide investors towards better decision making.


Cognitive biases play a significant role in shaping financial decisions, often leading to suboptimal outcomes.

By understanding these biases, investors can take steps to mitigate their impact and improve their financial decision making.

Implementing strategies such as education and awareness, diversification, long-term investing, evidence-based approaches, and seeking professional advice can help investors make better-informed decisions and ultimately achieve better investment performance.

Cognitive Biases FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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