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Beyond Greed and Fear: Understanding Behavioral Finance and the Psychology of Investing 2nd Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195161212
ISBN-10: 0195161211
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Psychology rules the stock market, according to Hersh Shefrin. In Beyond Greed and Fear, Shefrin shows how bias, perception, and other aspects of psychology often rattle investors and move stocks. From the individual who keeps losers too long to overconfident money managers who mistakenly think they can predict financial trends, human nature foils investment returns. "Behavioral finance is everywhere that people make financial decisions. Psychology is hard to escape; it touches every corner of the financial landscape, and it's important. Financial practitioners need to understand the impact that psychology has on them and those around them. Practitioners ignore psychology at their peril," writes Shefrin, a finance professor at Santa Clara University. An academic volume geared toward financial professionals, the book details an emerging field known as behavioral finance, in which psychology is believed to be at least as important as market fundamentals, such as earnings and balance sheets. Shefrin describes how investors are motivated by fear, hope, overconfidence, and the need for short-term gratification. The book gives plenty of examples of investment mistakes, and analyzes them from a behavioral-finance perspective. While Beyond Greed and Fear targets professionals, individual investors will benefit from this look at an important mover of markets. --Dan Ring --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Behavioral finance is defined by Shefrin (finance, Santa Clara Univ.) as "a rapidly growing area that deals with the influence of psychology on the behavior of financial practitioners." This comprehensive study is aimed primarily at practitionersAportfolio managers, analysts, and financial advisersAwho, according to Shefrin, "need to know that because of human nature, they make particular types of mistakes." Shefrin provides a historical background of finance theory, studies of behavioral analysis, and a review of major contributions to the literature. The book is divided into six parts: behavioral finance, the stock market, individual investors, money managers, corporate executives, and options, futures, and foreign exchange. In addition to numerous case studies, Shefrin utilizes statistical charts and tables to illustrate his central theories and concepts. Important and thought-provoking, this study is recommended for academic faculty and students as well as finance practitioners.ALucy T. Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Financial Management Association Survey and Synthesis
  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (September 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195161211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195161212
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.5 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,284,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Michael Gallipo on March 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Beyond Fear and Greed, Mr. Shefrin has written a fairly interesting account of the advances in behavioral finance. He draws heavily on previously published research (although often published in fairly esoteric sources), so people searching for lots of new insights will probably be disappointed. That said, Mr. Shefrin covers most of the common biases that we are prone to including mental accounting, loss aversion, trend following and the like. If a reader doesn't see him or herself in at least some of his illustrations, I suspect he is not being honest with himself.
My major problem is that in some instances I think Mr. Shefrin engages in his own form of hindsight bias. For example, in his account of wall street strategists' market predictions I think he finds his bias after he knows the results. If the market had a strong year previously and the strategist predicted another strong year and was proved wrong, then he was guilty of trend following. If however, the same strategist predicted a weak market and proved to be wrong, then he was guilty of gambler's fallacy (mean reversion). So basically either choice represents bias IF YOU ARE WRONG. And yet, just because you are right does not change the mental processes that went into your decision.
However, despite the weaknesses of this book, overall it provides much food for thought for any serious investor and is probably worth at least a quick read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has a good heart, but I can't recommend it so highly. The author takes several classical cognitive mistakes that humans make (some will recognize the classic names of Kahnemann and Tversky; they are one of the substrates of this book). The author applies such mistakes to a wide range of investment problems - holding on to losing stocks too long, anthropomorphizing stock decisions, and so on. The sort of psychology that makes you think that a coin that has flipped tails three times now has a 95% chance of flipping heads on the next toss. Most intelligent readers (the sort that buy Harvard Press books) could get the same points in a much briefer format, like a book chapter or a 10-page article. For example, people tend not to save enough for retirement because the future seems a long time away and they think they'll catch up and it will work out. Well, yes. Next?
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Sherfin has written an entertaining, yet scholarly overview of the subject. It is pitched at the practitioner rather than the layman, so anyone wanting detailed financial planning advice or quick fire trading ideas is going to be disappointed. What you do get however is a fascinating insight into the reasons that long-term stock market anomalies continue to exist, and the forms that they take. This should finally bury the idea that markets are efficient.
A couple of beefs though; firstly, as Sherfin points out several times "investors learn slowly" in yet most of the time series he quotes seem to be 3 to 10 years - statistically pretty insignificant in making generalizations about market behavior. Secondly, while he is rightly cynical about he money management industry (and does a good job at exposing some of its less creditable tricks), he at once dismisses active money management - "a combination of private interests and behavioral phenomena provide the basis for the existence of this active segment" - and then goes on to document the success of Fuller & Thaler Asset Management in producing considerable excess return. So which is it Mr.Sherfin?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a behavioral economist with a deep belief in the notion that human decision-makers deviate in important ways from the scientific principles laid down in modern rational choice theory. There is no doubt but that very many investors hold erroneous notions of the dynamics of price movements, and having a correct understanding will, on average lead to better returns on one's portfolio. Sheffrin presents the evidence for this position in an interesting and accessible manner.

Shefrin's main advice for investors is absolutely correct, and would improve the asset positions of many poor souls with idiotic notions of stock dynamics. His advice is that if you are not a gifted and dedicated stock expert, you should invest in a low-maintenance cost array of mutual funds, and above all, do not churn your stocks. It doesn't help to be smart, lucky, a stud with the girls, or blessed by God. Moreover, if you think you have one of the "gifted analysts" for a broker, you are to be counted as among the suckers who are never given an even break.

Shefrin has another thesis which he presents with great verve, but which is on very shakey grounds. This is that "gifted stock analysts" can on average, significantly out-perform the market. He believes this MUST be the case if a significant fraction of investors are behaving irrationality. However, there is another possibility, which is that stock brokers as a group gain from the excessive churning that irrational investors permit or ask them to do, but that it is impossible to "beat the market" except by pure luck or by personally studying firm fundamentals and future prospects.

Shefrin's data in favor of the "gifted analyst" is episodic and anecdotal, and there is plenty of data on the other side.
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