Sunday, September 11, 2022

Trading Lesson From a Social Psychology Experiment


I recently came across a classic social psychology experiment.  The subjects were seminary students and they were told to prepare a talk on the Good Samaritan.  Both groups were told that they would be delivering their talk to a group of mentors.  The first group was told that they running late to the talk and to get to the classroom as soon as possible.  The second group was told that they were on time and did not need to rush to deliver their talk.

Unknown to the subjects, along the way to the classroom was an actor lying on the ground, moaning, and in obvious discomfort.  The group of seminary students not in a rush to their talk was significantly more likely to stop to help the actor than the group in a rush.  Indeed, among the rushed group, there were students who literally stepped over the person in distress in order to get to the classroom!  

There is an important parallel to the trading world.  If a seminary student who has just been focusing on a parable about helping will not help a person in obvious distress because of their own immediate needs, how much more so will we fail to do what we are meant to do because of our own internal pressures!  The person lying on the ground in distress is our profit and loss statement.  No matter how much we rehearse our "process" and what we are meant to do, our best intentions can become hijacked by the needs of the moment.

The point is that it is not enough to merely look at what is out there:  we need to see.  If we truly see a person in need, we will stop and help, even if this makes us a bit late.  If we truly see the risk and reward in front of us, we can stop and do the right thing.  Overtrading is a failure of vision.  We are looking at the market, but not seeing opportunity and threat.  

Bringing unmet personal needs to trading is a great way to become like the seminary students who--on the way to a talk about helping!--rush by a person and fail to help.  It's another way of saying that great trading comes from the strengths of the soul and not the needs of the ego.

Further Reading:

Radical Renewal

The Main Ideas From Radical Renewal