Visibility, therefore, might affect prices in ways not necessarily commensurate with earnings prospects. These and other hypotheses about the effects of thought contagions on share prices are therefore proposed to help stimulate empirical investigation and quantification. With its emphasis on population psychology, thought contagion theory does not replace the extensive work on the contribution of individual psychology to market forces.
Similarly, the study of infectious diseases and symbiotic bacteria does not preclude study of non-infectious conditions. Thought contagion theory also does not seek to supplant existing methods of identifying companies with lucrative new patents, solid business plans, or good cash flow. Rather, it aims to provide a more inclusive picture of how mass psychology combines with individual psychology to affect market behavior. In doing so, it often draws upon knowledge of individual psychology to help understand processes happening at the population level. In , zoologist Richard Dawkins noticed that self-propagating ideas bear some similarities to evolving life forms and genes.
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He did not claim to have discovered a new kind of entity, but merely coined a convenient shorthand to label the subclass of ideas whose occurrence results from replication. The scientific study of how memes evolve and spread is now known as memetics.
Still, the more self-explanatory terms thought contagion and thought contagion theory often suffice for the topics here. Thought contagions exert their effects on financial markets both directly and indirectly. Those affecting financial markets indirectly may include doomsday beliefs, political ideologies, the movements leading to and from war, religions, and economic ideas. For instance, proliferation of religious and moral beliefs might affect the market by raising the fertility rate, which influences investment rates by shifting the ratio of workers to retirees, while also affecting the fundamentals of everything from real estate companies to baby food makers.
In the late s, a belief that the Y2K year computer bug would cost trillions of dollars and even billions of lives has proliferated by inducing believers to go forth and warn others, while more realistic appraisals of the problem stimulated less thought and less urge to communicate. Those beliefs may have played a temporary role in raising the share prices of companies working on Y2K solutions.
This hypothesis can be investigated by systematically tabulating Y2K Internet postings and looking for correlations with share prices of the Y2K companies. Large numbers of idle people with plenty of time to spread their beliefs and a large anticipated reward for spreading ideas and winning political power can help the belief system spread. Beliefs leading a nation to war and war preparations can affect stock markets in general and the shares of defense contractors in particular.
Finally, economic ideas, such as belief that the economy has entered a permanent era of prosperity, can affect markets accordingly.
Those holding such beliefs may invest more heavily and less carefully. They may also feel they have a relatively new, distinct, and vivid message to convey to others, leading them to retransmit their beliefs. These are just a few examples of beliefs that affect the financial markets by indirect but often powerful means. Other thought contagions pertain more directly to the value of securities, as evidenced by an emerging subfield of behavioral finance research using such terms as herding, contagion of opinion, informational cascades, and mimetic contagion.
Using somewhat different quantitative methods, informational cascade theory also applies to stock market phenomena Welch ; Bikhchandani, Hirshleifer, and Welch . Moreover, survey evidence indicates that the epidemic spread of interest in specific stocks does play a major role in causing rapid price increases Shiller and Pound . These findings apply to both individual and institutional investors. Herding behavior has been investigated in stock analyst forecasts De Bondt and Forbes  , as has herding in general e.
Collectively, they provide a basis for developing and empirically testing further hypotheses about the effects of thought contagions on individual stocks, market sectors, and entire stock markets. Further development of a theoretical framework for such hypotheses is thus in order. These can be distilled into three general factors for each meme: transmissivity, receptivity, and longevity Lynch [a]. Transmissivity measures how much dissemination behavior the meme elicits from its existing hosts.
In other words, it is a measure of how widely and often existing hosts attempt to spread an idea to others or exhibit behaviors that may incidentally spread the idea to others. A meme that spreads this way is the belief that you need to find a romantic partner of a "compatible" astrological sign.
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This idea causes singles who have it to talk about astrological signs with each new potential partner in order to determine compatibility. So the idea exploits human mating drives to get itself transmitted to more listeners. Incidental transmission can happen, for example, with cigarette smoking: A parent may not want to pass on the idea, but may nevertheless exhibit lighting and puffing behavior that incidentally conveys the idea to children. Still another example is the pre-war Nazi idea of using violence to promote the movement.
Those who disagreed were often intimidated into silence, which helped the Nazi movement to become a mass phenomenon. An example of transmissivity in financial markets is the spread of an unconfirmed and unrefuted merger rumor.
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Those who have heard the rumor want to know if it is true, especially if it affects their work as traders or investors. So they may ask others what they know about the rumor, potentially transmitting it to previously unexposed non-hosts in the process. The newly exposed ask still others, resulting in rampant transmission that can dramatically affect share prices.
Another transmissivity effect can be seen in the recent phenomenon of day trading.pedykyzoxyki.tk
The great majority of day traders lose money Shellenberger et al. But even when a majority are forced to give it up due to heavy losses, those who happen to win may be more visible and more vocal. Hence, they have more opportunities and more incentive to retransmit their ideas about day trading to reporters and potential new customers.
Moreover, those engaged in day trading tend to think about their investments very frequently, which might lead them to talk about it more often to friends and family.
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Those forced out by heavy losses may be too embarrassed to talk about it. Thus, day trading need not be generally lucrative to enjoy episodes of self-sustaining transmissivity. It may be represented as a distribution function or broken down into propagation parameters corresponding to specific types of meme transmission events such as parent to child, peer to peer, etc. Receptivity refers to how easily the non-hosts accept the meme. The merger rumor, for instance, must enjoy not only transmissivity, but also at least some receptivity to spread. Subfactors of receptivity may include rates of sensory perception, e.
In the investment arena, almost any tip that promises rich rewards can enjoy high receptivity. Yet intelligent people also form immune reactions to investment claims that sound too good to be true. People may also be highly receptive to loss prevention memes that warn against imprudent investment, further countering the spread of boundless hyperbole by the action of competing memes. Receptivity need not be uniform even across populations of those previously unexposed to a meme: Some may be highly susceptible to conversion while others may be extremely resistant. The others fill the various gradations of receptivity between the extremes.
Longevity refers to how long a host of the meme remains a host before dropping out or dying. A meme complex set of mutually supporting memes exhibiting great longevity is Freudian psychoanalytic theory. This feature may have helped Freudian theory achieve its enormous prevalence in the twentieth century. In the realm of investment beliefs, as with many other areas of life, memorable concepts persist longer than unmemorable ones. Because it conjures a simple and memorable image, the idea can persist for years, regardless of whether it is empirically supported.
The longer an idea persists, the more chances its host will have to retransmit it, creating an added transmissivity advantage that usually accompanies longevity advantages. Day trading may similarly exhibit some special longevity effects even when the trader is slowly losing money. Because day trading resembles gambling Shellenberger et al. Such an addiction could tend to preserve both the behavioral pattern of day trading and the cognitive beliefs behind it, at least until losses become too great to continue.
It also helps the day trading firm make more money to spend on misleading advertising, offsetting customer failures. That helps preserve and expand the day trading company itself as a source of meme transmission.
As with receptivity, longevity of hostship varies from person to person, and may be measured as a distribution function. Memes need each of these factors, transmissivity, receptivity, and longevity, in order to propagate. Differences in the three factors determine how widely a meme spreads in comparison to alternative memes. Although the truth and utility of an idea can contribute to the receptivity, longevity, or even transmissivity it enjoys, truth and utility alone do not assure high levels of these propagation factors. Likewise, wide propagation alone does not indicate either the truth or utility of an idea.
In financial markets, this means that the success of a good investment strategy does not assure wide adoption and the wide prevalence of an investment idea alone does not assure effectiveness at earning money. As we have noted, a simple idea is easier to express by someone who already has it, easier to comprehend and adopt by someone newly exposed to it, and easier to remember by someone who is converted to it.
Making a more realistic case for the growth prospects of company A requires knowing and expressing a far more complicated picture.
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But the difficulty of knowing and expressing the complex realities gives such knowledge much lower transmissivity. On hearing such information, one is less likely to comprehend and learn it as well, giving complex but realistic ideas less receptivity. The spread of such simple ideas can send demand up, again causing share prices to rise far above a level justified by subsequent earnings. Reality eventually catches up, however, as earnings surprises come in and send the overvalued share prices sharply lower and the undervalued share prices sharply higher Dreman .
This can allow the meme to be dropped as readily as it was accepted. Some of the questions it addresses are why certain beliefs and mores correlate with socioeconomic status and why consumer preferences spread or decline. In markets, thought contagions exert different effects in different spheres: They may lead to relative efficiencies in employment markets, while generating inefficiencies in stock markets.
For instance, if there is a high demand for a particular kind of employee in relationship to the supply of applicants, the pay will be high. These highly paid people can attract more imitators to their profession until the supply of available workers drives down their pay scales.
At that point, there is no longer such a high rate of imitators, and the influx of new workers to the profession dwindles. This favors some degree of market efficiency in matters of employment. Yet this market is also affected by parentally spread memes, the ones whose propagation on a mass scale results from large mean family sizes. The mechanism may incidentally produce more job seekers, even in areas that already have high unemployment rates. Another source of possible inefficiency in employment markets is that technological progress and business cycles can suddenly change the demand for people with specific skills.
With investments such as stocks, we may again see abundant imitation for those choices that pay unusually well. For example, two traders on an exchange do not trade stocks in secret, but make a widely seen and recorded announcement about the value and value change of those stocks. This provides a basis for wide imitation. But a high imitation rate for increased valuation means high demand at the increased price, which drives the stock price up further and the yield down.
Ideally, this should in turn lower the imitation rate, allowing the influx of investors to a particular company to level off or fluctuate.