SELF-ATTRIBUTION BIAS IN INVESTING

The definition

The trading world requires market knowledge and the ability to navigate cognitive biases. One such cognitive bias, self-attribution bias, often manifests in traders attributing positive outcomes to their skills while blaming external factors for losses. This cognitive bias can significantly impact decision-making, leading to overconfidence during winning streaks and a failure to acknowledge mistakes during losses. This blog explores the nuances of self-attribution bias, its impact on trading behavior, and strategic approaches to overcome it.


Common examples of self-attribution bias in trading

  1. Credit for wins: Traders often wrongly attribute gains solely to their trading abilities, neglecting the influence of external factors.
  2. Blaming external factors for losses: Traders often attribute losses to external factors like market volatility rather than engaging in introspection about their decision-making.
  3. Overconfidence: Success can breed overconfidence, prompting traders to take excessive risks without a realistic assessment of their capabilities.
  4. Ignoring past mistakes: Failure to learn from past mistakes is a hallmark of self-attribution bias, hindering improvement in decision-making.


The impact of self-attribution bias in trading

  • Risk-taking: Excessive self-attribution bias may drive traders to take risks beyond their comfort level, influenced by an unwarranted belief in their abilities.
  • Failure to learn: Traders not accepting accountability for errors risk repeating mistakes, impeding their ability to enhance decision-making.
  • Hindsight and confirmation bias: Viewing past decisions as more logical than they were and seeking information that confirms existing beliefs can lead to erroneous decisions.
  • Inaccurate self-assessment: Traders may need to be more accurate with their abilities and external factors, distorting their understanding of trading results.
  • Overemphasis on short-term results: Focusing excessively on short-term gains may lead to neglect of long-term risks and consequences.


How to overcome self-attribution bias

  1. Realistic self-view: Initiate cultivating a realistic view of yourself as a trader or investor, uncovering strengths and weaknesses through self-analysis and emotional intelligence.
  2. Trading journal: Maintain a detailed trading journal, recording the rationale behind each decision. It aids in identifying patterns of self-attribution bias.
  3. Seeking feedback: Share trading experiences with peers to gain alternative perspectives on behavioral patterns.
  4. Alternative explanations: When facing a loss, consider alternative reasons beyond external factors. Evaluate your decision-making process critically.
  5. Diverse information sources: Seek diverse data and perspectives, including those contradicting your views, to identify and mitigate self-attribution bias.
  6. Goal setting: Set realistic goals to maintain a balanced perspective on successes and mistakes.


Self-attribution bias presents a significant challenge in trading, impacting decision-making and risking financial outcomes. To mitigate this bias, understand it and employ strategies like maintaining a trading journal, seeking feedback, and setting realistic goals. Stay vigilant, continuously analyze decision-making processes, and strive for continuous improvement.


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