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What happens when you know you should but you don't

Cognitive Dissonance – is the discomfort when a person’s belief or values conflict with behaviour or visa verse. Traders will experience this all the time because high performance trading (Profitable trading) occurs counter to normal human behaviour. We have all learnt from cavemen to modern human to take the good quickly and avoid risk.

Dissonance causes a feeling of discomfort that motivates people to try to feel better. People may do this via defense mechanisms, such as avoidance. Alternatively, they may reduce cognitive dissonance by being mindful of their values and pursuing opportunities to live those values. A person who feels defensive or unhappy might consider the role cognitive dissonance might play in these feelings.


1. Allowing trade to complete: A trader has placed a trade and cuts it early because they think the market will not be able to give them more profit. They ignore their trading system and cut the win early only to find it runs much further.

2. A trader hesitates on entering a trade because they don’t believe it will be profitable even though their system tells them to do so.

Causes include forced compliance, effort and decision making. Traders are more susceptible to Decision Making as the root cause for dissonance. Everyone has limited choices. When a person must decide among several options they do not like or agree with, or they only have one viable option, they may experience cognitive dissonance.

Story – an idea has crossed my mind in the past, but it came forward again years later when a trainee said something as a passing comment. They said that the reason they don’t make money or continue to place trades is because they feel as though they don’t deserve the money. This played on my mind for a while, racking my brain. Why would someone not think they are worthy of the market giving them a return?

This is a dissonance between your belief and your action. The trader has a fear of placing trades due to the disconnect between their belief in the system and therefore is unable to take the action. This then creates the disbelief that the market can serve them and return profit.

Defences –

Limiting impact: Entails minimising the unpleasantness of cognitive dissonance by downplaying its significance. In order to persuade themselves or others that the behaviour is acceptable, a person may do this by asserting that the behaviour is unusual or an isolated incident.

Delegitimising: This involves undermining evidence of the dissonance. A person may do this by discrediting the person, group, or situation that highlighted the dissonance. For instance, they can assert that it is biased or unreliable.

Avoiding: In this, the dissonance is either avoided or ignored. A person may try to avoid events or persons who bring it up, dissuade others from talking about it, or divert their attention with laborious tasks.

The resolution to dissonance

As I’ve mentioned before, inherently, trading goes against normal human psychology. That is to avoid loss, stay away from danger, short cut decision making in high stress situations and to consistently return to a place of comfort. In essence a trader must make their uncomfortable place a comfortable one.

Unfortunately, the resolution to dissonance involves hard work and it will also be ongoing. A trader requires proof that the trades decisions they are about to undertake are legitimate. Once this is achieved and the below is completed then a trader will not hesitate to enter/manage the trade.

Proof and evidence

· Back testing (manual/automated)

· Practice (playback simulators)

· Forward trading with no risk (demo)

· Record keeping (journal/ macro stats)

· Pre-game preparation

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