Saturday, April 24, 2010

Core Ideas in Trading Psychology: Introduction to Trading Psychology

This post will begin a review of the key ideas from my three trading psychology books and the roughly 3700 blog posts on this site. Wherever possible, I will link to posts and resources pertinent to each topic for ready reference.

But first an introduction to trading psychology. The relevance of psychology for trading is based upon two important realities:

1) Trading is a performance activity, much like athletics or performing arts. Psychological variables influence both the acquisition of skills in any performance field and the application of those skills. While there is much more to performance than mindset alone--talents, skills, and interests must align--the wrong mindset can greatly hamper performance;

2) The human mind does not process information efficiently or effectively under conditions of risk and uncertainty. To simply "trade what you see" is a recipe for falling prey to a variety of cognitive and emotional biases. The trader's psychological development is crucial to learning how to properly gauge risk and reward when performance pressures mount.

Trading psychology is not something that is simply appended to trading practice: it is an integral part of functioning as a trader and is acquired in the process of learning how to trade. It is through the trader's developmental process that he or she learns how to manage risk, how to temper overconfidence and fear, and how to sustain positive motivation.

Indeed, a proper training curriculum for a new trader is one which helps the trader and the trading develop over time. A great deal of psychological learning comes from making the classic mistakes that bedevil all new traders: making impulsive decisions, allowing fear to overtake opportunity, overtrading, allowing losing trades to run and capping winners, and the like. If you can make those mistakes--and learn from them--long before you put the lion's share of your capital at risk, you will have an opportunity to grow into the trader you're capable of becoming.

Sometimes the best therapy for your trading is to get into therapy yourself. The markets are an expensive place to be working out your issues about success/failure, competency/adequacy, and need for approval/esteem. Many people take their repetitive patterns from family and romantic relationships and enact them in trading. When that is the case, psychological development needs to precede trading development: resolving those issues is the best way to approach markets with a clear and open mind.

Eventually, you will be able to take your psychological development to the next level of trading: you will recognize when others are making the mistakes you used to make. You will see markets acting on fear and greed and you'll be able to take the other side of those reactive trades. You'll observe when market sentiment is tilted one way and price can no longer sustain its trend. Developing yourself psychologically doesn't mean that you'll be free of emotion; it means that you will become increasingly competent at using your feelings as useful trading information.

More:

The Psychology of Trading is a good introduction to the topic of how life's challenges play themselves out in the trading world.

Enhancing Trader Performance is a good introduction to the learning curves of traders and the process of developing competence and expertise.

The Daily Trading Coach is a good compendium of self-help ideas and techniques for traders looking to coach themselves toward better performance.
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3 comments:

paulie said...

Brilliant post, as always. We're gonna miss you, Doc.

H

Michael said...

Great idea! Like a capstone summary that sits atop a mountain of value, or an index providing a series of jump-off points into deeper water.

Looking forward to the continuation of this series . . .

Markus said...

first of all, thank you for this massive amount of blog posts and intrinsic information.

we will definitley miss you....