Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Selective Attention, Repetition, and Internalizing a Winning Sense of Self

Thanks to a savvy trader for pointing out this excellent post from James Clear on the role of selective attention in the development of expertise.  His observations regarding repetition as the source of skill development is spot on.  So much of expert performance is a function of knowing what to tune out--and then intensifying concentration on the essentials that remain.

While you're at it, check out James' post on quantity vs. quality and how that impacts our work output.  Expertise is all about learning-by-doing, not seeking an abstract standard of perfection.  As he puts it, "start with repetitions, not goals."  

The reason this is powerful is that frequent, positive experience--those small wins--have a powerful mirroring impact.  When we are doing things better and better, we begin to experience ourselves as being better and better.  Our self-concept is an internalization of what we do, not something we can merely talk ourselves into.  Viewing changes with doing: repetitions created repeated positive experiences and repeated reinforcement of a new experience of self.

Further Reading:  How to Change Your Self

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Transformation Via Trance Formation: Using Hypnosis to Accelerate Change

Milton Erickson, M.D. was a pioneer of brief approaches to psychotherapy, making use of hypnosis techniques to accelerate change.  "You use hypnosis not as a cure," he observed, "but as a favorable climate in which to learn."  His work stood traditional therapy on its head.  Instead of using insight as a means to promote change, he employed hypnosis to directly instill new behavior patterns.  "Change will lead to insight," he insisted, "more often that insight will lead to change."

Recent neuroscience research into hypnosis suggests that it represents a distinctive state of consciousness.  Specifically, hypnosis is associated with activation of attention and deactivation of "default mode" functions such as self-awareness and semantic thought.  It is as if the person in a hypnotic induction intensifies their focus at the same time that they shut off their active reasoning.  This has made hypnosis particularly useful as a treatment for pain, as it enables us to process the experience differently, where we no longer identify with the discomfort.

One of Erickson's most provocative ideas is that hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of consciousness and does not require formal induction processes.  Indeed, in his therapy, Erickson commonly told stories, often of a complex and even confusing nature, that held listeners' attention and helped them think differently about their problems.  His goal was to allow change to occur naturally and indirectly by changing people's views of their problems, including the language they used to describe their experience.

A classic Ericksonian therapy described by Jay Haley was his single session treatment of a patient's insomnia.  He encouraged the insomniac to get out of bed when he couldn't sleep and meticulously scrub his apartment floor with a toothbrush to get the floor perfectly clean.  When the patient had tried to make himself sleep, of course, his efforts only heightened his awareness of his problem.  When he scrubbed the floor, however, he became so bored with the task--and so focused away from his problem--that his natural tiredness took over.

When we become absorbed in a task, we enter a state very similar to hypnotic trance.  It appears that the flow state associated with creativity--the state of being "in the zone" familiar to traders--is actually a form of trance.  Just as cancer patients can disconnect from their pain through the focused attention of hypnosis, it may be possible for any of us to disconnect from unwanted behavior patterns by shifting our conscious state.  Similarly, we may best acquire desired patterns--including the patterns of markets--when we are in a flow state of enhanced cognitive processing.

Traditional therapies and coaching interventions have tended to emphasize verbal communication and conscious reflection on one's problems.  It may well be the case, however, that change occurs most efficiently when we are in an alternative mode of processing that facilitates the internalization of new patterns.  Staying in a single state of consciousness keeps us locked in our routine modes of viewing and doing.  What Erickson realized is that it takes a gear shift of consciousness to help people process experience in new ways.  Trance formation may be the hidden key to transformation:  first we change, then we achieve insight.

Further Reading:  Why Controlling Emotions Should Not Be a Goal of Trading Psychology

Monday, July 21, 2014

Getting to the Next Level of Trading Performance: A Group Coaching Experience

Many traders I've spoken with have expressed the feeling that they are very close to breaking out and taking their trading to an entirely new level.  Often, their unspoken assumption is that once they reach that new level, the problems of mastering markets will be behind them.  As the all-too-spot-on quote suggests, however, new levels bring new devils.  With fresh success come the demons of overconfidence, envious colleagues, and the renewed humbling challenges of changing markets

Not infrequently, getting to the next level of trading requires getting to the next level in your personal development.  That can be difficult when a big part of you might be committed to old ways of doing things.  It is easy to do something well, but far harder to turn best practices into established habits.  I find that getting to that next level generally is more a matter of doing many small things consistently well than making any single explosive breakthrough.  You can't have a successful year without having a successful month, and you need successful days to make a successful month.  It's great to have great goals for the indeterminate future, but what is the energizing vision and specific, concrete actions that will transform your work today?  There is no greatness without individual acts performed greatly in the present.

A vivid example of doing small things well is Rory McIlroy, the young golfer who recently won the British Open.  He revealed, before the competition, that he had two secret words that were his cues for success.  He invited the media to guess the words, but no one was successful.   The words were "process" and "spot".  His entire focus was on the process of taking the right swing with his long shots and hitting desired spots on the green with his putting.  No thoughts of where he stood in the competition; no thoughts of how he performed on the previous hole.  Rory was entirely present-centered, absorbed in the mechanics of doing the right things and letting the score take care of itself.

There is no great trading without making individual great trades.  And there can be no individual great trades without great ideas, great entry execution, great position management, great planning.  Process, spot.  That's the focus Bella talks about at SMB when he emphasizes making "one good trade".       

It would be nice to have a trading coach spurring your development, much as personal trainers work with people in the gym.  For most traders, however, that is neither a practical nor available option.  Recognizing this, Terry Liberman of WindoTrader approached me with the idea of offering a webinar on the topic of getting to the next performance level in trading.  Unlike traditional webinars, however, this will not be a didactic session.  Rather, it will be a free group coaching session, where the content is brought to the event by traders in the form of questions, challenges, and keen observations.  My role will be to help traders think about old problems in new ways, both to address trading flaws and build existing strengths. 

The event will be held this Wednesday, July 23rd at 4:30 PM EST; check the WindoTrader site for details and registration.  My hope is to provide a unique, interactive learning experience for traders--look forward to seeing you there!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Trauma, Bias, and Financial Literacy: Three Topics to Start a Fresh Week

Hope your weekend has been a good one.  Here are a few topics that might get us started for the week to come:

*  I've heard from several traders who have taken position sizes well outside their comfort zones, lost money, and shaken their confidence.  As we learned from Naomi (above), recovering from a traumatic event is not something you can just talk yourself into.  My experience is that the traumatic responses of traders--while not on the scale of extreme anxiety-producing events that occur in military combat--have some similarities to what soldiers go through in wartime.  This is partly because the stress symptoms often precede the specific traumatic event and because second guessing, anger, and grief are common after the event.  This is why prudent risk management is so crucial to trading psychology:  it is the best preventive measure we can take to avoid overloading ourselves emotionally.  Otherwise, it becomes all too easy for drama to turn into trauma.

*  I'm not sure if it's great minds thinking alike, but I see that David Blair and SMB Training posted some perspectives on hidden biases in trading that I hadn't seen prior to my recent post on bias blind spots.  David, on his Crosshairs Trader blog, describes how developing a stock trading process can improve decision making.  As Tadas Viskanta of Abnormal Returns emphasizes, putting market activity into the context of one's life--and not the reverse--is an important way of avoiding emotional overreactions and biases:  "there is much more to life than investing".  One way to reduce bias is to operate with sound trading rules.  Here are some of the rules emphasized by Barry Ritholtz; here is his second group--very relevant to investors and traders alike.

*  Here is a very interesting post on the financial literacy of investors from David Bailey and research group.  That group has also posted quite pointedly on the dangers of overfitting when backtesting trading strategies (see this recent article from Jason Zweig on the topic, as well).  The area where I find traders most lacking in financial literacy is risk management, per the trauma observations above.  Here is an informative post on using the 2% rule as a risk management guideline.  Evaluating your trading like a trading system is evaluated is a good way to get a handle on risk management; here are valuable perspectives archived by Henry Carstens.  As one wise researcher once told me, "Every successful trader is a system, whether they realize it or not."  It makes sense to study the system behind your own trading; hence the importance of studying one's trading metrics.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Identifying Trend Days With Intraday New Highs and Lows

As a rule, good entry execution in stocks means waiting for pullbacks if you're going long; bounces if you're looking to be short.  The exception to this rule are is the trend day, in which the market moves consistently in one direction for the entire day session.  For traders on short time frames particularly, good entry execution on a trend day--such as we saw yesterday--means entering early in the day and benefiting from the day's directional tendency.

Please review this post from May; it summarizes key ingredients of an upside trend day.  All of these were present in yesterday's session.  This earlier post also provides a number of trend day signposts; see also this 2009 post.

In the chart above, I track yesterday's ES futures versus the number of stocks trading across all exchanges that are making fresh day session highs minus those making fresh day session lows.  (Data were obtained via e-Signal).  This is an interesting measure, as it begins tracking new highs/lows from the market open.  For that reason, values tend to be elevated during the early minutes of trading relative to later in the day.  During uptrend days, we see two things:

*  The difference between new intraday highs and lows stays positive throughout the trading session;

*  We get spikes in new highs well into the trading session, as a large proportion of stocks are trending. 

Conversely, during rotational days, we'll see some stocks making fresh highs for the day session and some making fresh lows.  As the market oscillates, the difference between intraday new highs and lows will cycle from positive to negative and back again.

Along with the indicators outlined in the above posts, the intraday new highs/lows give a good sense for whether there is a directional bias to the day's trade.  With a bit of testing, relatively early in the session, we can identify the probability that we are operating in a trend environment or a rangebound one.  This not only benefits daytraders, but also aids the entry and exit execution of longer timeframe participants.

Further Reading:  Catching Trend Days in the Stock Market

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Bias Blind Spots of Investors and Traders

Surveying the literature on the behavioral biases of investors, it does indeed seem as though the model of infinite stupidity is closer to the truth than the model of rational market participants!  The list of such biases is impressively long: Barry Ritholtz offers this list; see also this overview from Morgan Housel and this particularly thorough list from the Psy-Fi Blog.  Abnormal Returns highlights the problems associated with positive thinking; Stammers focuses on 3 biases that impact investments; and Above the Market offers this summary of biases.

A very interesting study from the University of Pennsylvania finds that neither investor sophistication nor investor experience, by themselves, is sufficient to overcome the behavioral bias known as the disposition effect.  This is a bias to sell winning investments and hold onto losing ones.  Investors who are both sophisticated (knowledgeable) and experienced are able to sell losing investments appropriately, but they still display a tendency to prematurely sell winners.  

This phenomenon, known as the bias blind spot, reflects the fact that knowing about biases does not prevent people from falling prey to them.  Indeed, we typically perceive biases in others more readily than in ourselves, as this Stanford study finds.  This happens, in part, because we tend to focus more on our introspections than on our behavior, leading us to assume that we are not biased because, subjectively, our thoughts do not seem biased!  

Here is a telling anecdote:  I have worked as a performance coach for traders for a number of years.  People have sought me out for a variety of concerns, ranging from emotional interference with trading decisions to challenges in learning new markets.  How many--of the many hundreds of people I've interacted with in a coaching capacity--have expressly sought help for their cognitive and behavioral biases?


Traders are much more likely to attribute trading problems to emotional, psychological sources, external distractions, or evil market manipulations than they are to illusion, bias, and statistical artifact.  

What does that mean?

A staple of trading psychology wisdom is that one should trust their "processes" and remain grounded in them at all times.  But what if those processes involve subjective impressions from second-hand sources of unknown accuracy, poorly constructed statistical tests, or conclusions based upon limited, recent samples of experience?  The advice to stay process-driven presumes that traders operate in a bias-free manner--which is itself a beautiful example of the bias blind spot!

Suppose a trader's base case was that his/her own thinking could very well be biased.  In such an event, the trader's process would be replete with routines that test assumptions, validate sources, and explicitly entertain counterfactual scenarios and alternate explanations.  The trader seeking to minimize bias blind spots would be vigilant, questioning and even doubting all trade ideas.  How many of us do that in a structured manner and on a routine basis?  (Hat tip to the hyperrational colleague who inspired this question).

So who is more likely to be hired at the average trading firm:  the bold, confident trader who expresses great conviction in his ideas or the cautious, questioning trader who makes special efforts to avoid bias blind spots?  The answer to that question goes a long way toward explaining why average trading firms rarely sustain above average trading results.

Further Reading:  Hindsight Bias and Regret in Trading

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Maximizing Performance by Optimizing the Performance Environment

The recent post on improving your cognitive environment suggested that performance is not only a function of talent, skill, and effort, but also one's surroundings.  Those surroundings include at least three elements:

1)  Our physical environment - How our space is laid out; the resources available in that space; the degree to which the environment is comfortable, quiet, stimulating, distracting, etc.

2)  Our social environment - Who we are surrounded by and who we choose to surround ourselves with; the interactions we have with others, virtual and actual; the degree to which we benefit or are hindered by our interactions.

3)  Our cognitive environment - The information we process; the degree to which we filter vs. seek information; the ways in which information we format and process our information; the sources we seek for our information.

Rarely are our environments optimized for the work we undertake.  Partly this is because we tend attribute performance outcomes to internal factors:  our decisions, our psychological states, our research, etc.  Because we don't systematically vary our environments or focus on the impacts of naturally occurring environmental changes, we generally don't appreciate the ways in which the world around us impacts our decision-making and performance.

A simple example is the quality and quantity of sleep we get each night.  We know from research that getting the right kind of sleep, as well as the right amount of sleep, is important to mood regulation, concentration, learning, and performance.  We also know that sleep is affected by what and when we eat and drink, our exercise level, and our nighttime routines.  Keeping a phone at the bedside to check on nighttime quotes is a common environmental choice for many money managers--and it's one that can rob us of the deep restorative sleep that aids next day performance.

One challenge traders have in structuring the environment optimally is that trading consists of multiple activities, each of which typically requires a different environment.  For many traders, quiet periods of deep analysis--whether by reviewing charts, reading research articles, or analyzing data--are an important part of their understanding of markets.  Such work is best undertaken in distraction-free environments that promote sustained focus--not on the desk with multiple distracting screens and phones.

Conversely, most traders need to stay on top of breaking developments during the trading day and so stay closely connected to news, chats, and interactions with colleagues.  The quiet, distraction-free environment, so helpful to deep thinking, is not so useful for the fast thinking of keeping up with and understanding the implications of news releases and the dynamics of real-time market movement. 

And how about those activities in which traders piece together the elements of market puzzles, integrating the results of both deep analysis and fast market pattern recognition?  Such synthesis--quite different from the deep dives of market analysis--benefits from processing information in multiple ways.  We can write journals, carry on conversations with valued colleagues, or simply remove ourselves from the work environment and ponder the world while on a hike.  The creative process of synthesis benefits from fresh interactions, fresh settings, and fresh ways of piecing together our observations--and those of others.

What is unlikely is that sitting at a desk, in front of a trading screen, will optimize all our efforts at analysis, observation, and synthesis.  Each is a different process, and each of us engages in those processes in different ways.  If you find yourself distracted, inefficient, a step behind in understanding markets, frustrated with performance, and/or undisciplined in your work routines, consider the possibility that there might be a suboptimal fit between you and your work environment.  Tracking shifts in your environment and their impact upon your performance is a worthwhile first step in discovering what works best for you.

It's amazing how much we can pick up when we process the right information the right ways in the right settings.

Further Reading:  Where to Find a Trading Career

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bubbles, Booms, and Busts: Why Rational Investors Become Irrational

The recent post distinguished between financial bubbles and manias, suggesting that blowoff tops and eventual crashes occur when overpriced assets--instead of returning to fair value--become the object of frenzied speculation.  The above graphic from Jean-Paul Rodrigue captures this dynamic quite nicely, suggesting that the phases of blowoff and crash are accompanied by participation from different segments of investors.  Enthusiasm, he suggests, turns to greed and eventually to the delusion that we are living in a new paradigm.

This dynamic has caught the attention of researchers, as it is so completely at odds with the common view of efficient markets and rational investors.  Indeed, Rodrigue refers to bubbles as "misallocation engines", as lax credit provides the fuel for the paradoxical situation in which higher asset prices lead to greater investor demand.  Hence the phenomenon of rising volatility and volumes even as prices move higher, noted in the previous post.

In 2007, I cited the momentum life cycle work of Lee and Swaminathan, which suggested that there are common patterns linking share prices and volumes.  Specifically, stocks go through phases of rising volume, which correspond to short-term momentum effects (strength leading to further strength) and longer-term reversals (strength leading to correction).  Following such corrections, stocks typically show low volume characteristics and behave in a value (mean-reversion) manner, rather than a momentum one.  These momentum life cycles help to explain why value and momentum strategies work--and why each does not work uniformly.  

From this perspective, the bubbles researched by Kindleberger might represent exaggerations of the normal cyclical behavior of assets. The role of lax credit in these exaggerations would help to explain why, in the wake of low interest rates policies across the globe, Colombo finds current evidence of bubbles across multiple markets and regions.

Recent research suggests that the dynamics underlying the transition from normal, cyclical behavior to bubble creation may lie in the brain.  Participants in a simulated trading market underwent brain scans via fMRI while trading that market.  Overall, participants displayed activity in the pleasure centers of the brain as prices rose.  Successful participants, however, received a warning signal from the brain when a market was in its manic phase, leading them to exit before boom led to bust.  Less successful participants did not receive such a signal and continued to act on their pleasure signals well after the market had turned.

Colin Camerer, researcher behind the study, noted that subjects were able to control the prices of the simulated assets through their decisions.  "The first thing we saw," he noted, "was that even in an environment where you don't have squawking heads and all kinds of other information being fed to people, you can get bubbles just through pricing dynamics that occur naturally."  Interestingly, the lowest earning group of traders in the study were momentum participants who consistently acted on their brains' pleasure signals.  The best performing group bought early and sold while prices were still on the rise.

To return to the above graphic from Rodrigue, successful traders behaved more like the "smart money", while unsuccessful traders acted like the uninformed public, valuing the market more as its valuation rose.  It is in this context that the advice of Abnormal Returns, to stand aside from bubble prediction and participation, makes good sense.  What gratifies our pleasure centers is not necessarily what makes us profitable.

Still, as Tadas notes, citing Daniel Gross, there can be an upside to bubbles in the broader scheme of things:  boom and bust in the short run--from gold rush frenzies to dot-com speculation--provide funding for frontier efforts that eventually lead to real development.  Not all infatuations lead to lasting romance and not all speculations end in long-term, profitable investments.  Without animal spirits, however, perhaps many frontiers would remain unexplored and undeveloped.  

Further Reading:  Why Emotions Are Key to Trading Performance

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When Bubbles Become Manias: The Psychology of Runaway Markets

From housing in 2007 to stocks in 2000 and all the way back to those infamous tulip bulbs, we've heard about and experienced market bubbles.  While Eddy Elfenbein might indeed be right when he defines a bubble as a bull market in which we don't have a position, there have certainly been times in which financial assets have become so subject to speculative fervor that they have lost their anchoring to fundamental value.  Consider Japan's Lost Decade following its real estate bubble; it's understandable that investors wish to both avoid bubbles and potentially profit from them.

Can we actually identify bubbles while we are in them, however, and--more to the point--can we anticipate when they might burst?  Abnormal Returns suggests that trying to crystal ball the end of bubbles is not a fruitful use of an investor's time, as peaks are only truly known in hindsight following the initial--and often harrowing--decline.  We've all known market pundits who have predicted 12 of the last 2 market crashes, leaving phenomenal amounts of money on the table for their uncritical followers.

A different perspective, however, is offered by Forbes columnist Jesse Colombo, who provided a heads up on the 2007 housing decline and recently posted 23 eye-opening charts suggesting that stocks are headed for a crash.  Indeed, with central banks seemingly outdoing one another in the race for lower for longer, Jesse finds evidence of bubbles across multiple global markets.  It is difficult to think of another period in which we have not only had bubbles, but a bubble of bubbles.  That has to be a sobering scenario for longer-term investors.

From a psychological perspective, I find it useful to distinguish between bubbles and manias.  A bubble is a financial phenomenon, in which valuations depart greatly from underlying fundamentals.  A mania is a social-psychological situation in which assets are purchased recklessly, with the assumption that they can only go higher.  The famous bubbles of financial history have also had elements of mania.  Indeed, it is the herd behavior of crowds that has created the severe declines that have accompanied the popping of bubbles.  It's possible, however, that bubbles can exist for a period of time before the manic buying and selling leads to a pop.

The useful Stock Charts site shows that the ratio of bullish to bearish investment advisers tracked by Investors Intelligence is higher now than it was at the time of the 2007 and 2000 peaks, suggesting that we are seeing a degree of unbridled enthusiasm.  Per the Abnormal Returns caution, however, it is clear that such enthusiasm can last a while before it ends in tears.  The highest level of bullish-to-bearish sentiment in the last 30 years occurred prior to the 1987 crash--but early in 1986, well before the eventual market peak.

The distinction between bubbles and manias leads to an interesting thesis:  because manias are, by definition, frenzied phenomena, we should expect market volumes and volatility to bottom prior to any manic price peaks.  That, indeed, happened in the 1920s:  average monthly trading volumes in 1925 and 1926 were in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 million.  Monthly volumes in 1927 routinely broke 50 million and in 1928, they exceeded 80 million for 7 months out of the 12.  Seven of the first nine months of 1929--just before the crash--exceeded 80 million, with several over 100 million.  

Volatility bottomed in 1986, well before the 1987 peak preceding the October crash, and we saw a bottom in VIX in 1995, well before the drops of 1998 and 2000.  VIX also bottomed in 2006, considerably in advance of the market demise of 2008.  

In each of these cases, animal spirits began percolating during the period in which bubbles became manias, ahead of market crashes.  Quiet markets are not manic ones, but bubble markets tend to eventually draw animal spirits, as Kindleberger documented.  With volumes currently tame and VIX not so far from those 2006 lows, it is difficult to read the current stock market condition as mania.  Should interest rates rise in the face of rising inflation, however, and the flood of money parked in bonds finally find its great rotation into stocks, we could see those animal spirits return to equity markets amidst the current optimism and lack of financial stress.  

That, history teaches us, generally doesn't end well.

Further Reading:  Bubbles, Booms, and Busts: Why Rational Investors Become Irrational

Monday, July 14, 2014

Data Rich, Information Poor: Improving Your Cognitive Environment

Discussions about psychology among traders tend to focus on the emotional challenges of making sound decisions in the face of risk and uncertainty.  Less appreciated are the cognitive challenges of trading.  Thanks in large part to the online medium, today's trader is not at all like the tape reader of yesteryear, hunched over a ticker tape spitting out transactions.  Today we have multiple screens that display multiple charts, multiple indicators gracing each chart, and an endless barrage of news reports, tweets, and chats.  Early traders lacked timely data and therefore operated with very incomplete information.  Today's traders are overwhelmed by data, with few ways of distinguishing which of the data constitute relevant information.

To use Kahneman's terms, we spend so much time thinking fast--keeping up with the data barrage--that we rarely think slowly, deeply, uniquely, creatively.  This leaves us data rich, but information poor.

It's not surprising that a knowledgeable observer of the financial media such as Tadas Viskanta of Abnormal Returns counsels in his book that market participants should go on "a media diet."  In a world swimming in data, the challenge is focusing on the right information, filtering out the rest.  I strongly suspect that Abnormal Returns is popular precisely because Tadas serves as an effective filter for readers.  Just as we rely on curators to decide what to include in museums and what to exclude, we rely on the curation of expert websites to help us channel our limited resources of time and attention.

In some cases, the filtering expertise of websites draws upon the wisdom of crowds:  Trip Advisor for restaurant and hotel suggestions; Rotten Tomatoes for movie reviews; and Beer Advocate for ratings of craft brews.  While the crowd may deliver wisdom about such matters as best IPAs and imperial stouts, it's less clear that it possesses a distinctive edge in areas of specialized expertise, such as medical diagnoses or portfolio construction.  For those needs, filtering expertise relies upon the wisdom of individual expert curators.

(A site like Stock Twits is unique in that it captures both the expertise/folly of crowds via social sentiment analyses and the insights of experts who develop reputations within the community.  In a future post, I will explore the curation of tweets--a particular challenge given the sheer volume of content generated daily.)

The value of information filters is that they minimize distractions and interruptions from sources with low signal-to-noise ratios.  Research suggests that such distractions and interruptions actually make us dumber:  we're less able to perform basic tasks with divided attention.  Just as having a cluttered physical environment can interfere with concentration and information processing, the ability to avoid distraction can help us process information more intelligently

Might it be the case that traders make poor and impulsive decisions, not because of intrinsic emotional conflicts or lack of discipline, but because their unfiltered cognitive environments leave them less able to identify and act upon valid information?  This is a neglected area of inquiry and one I will be tackling in a future post.

Further Reading:  Finding Your Optimal Environment