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When in doubt, don't opt out

Charlie Munger has often talked about a very important human tendency that every investor should undoubtedly not avoid.

Doubt-avoidance tendency

The name itself is quite self-explanatory. Doesn't our mind often display a tendency to steer clear of doubts to quickly reach a decision or conclusion? It surely does, and at times to our own disadvantage. Charlie Munger presents an evolutionary perspective about how this tendency must have developed in humans from their non-human ancestors. He asserts that it would be suicidal for a prey animal threatened by a predator to take a long time to decide what to do. The development of this tendency has come as a survival tactic in times of stress and confusion. Much of religious propaganda has in fact taken advantage of this tendency. How otherwise would you explain the immense faith displayed by people in religious decrees that will otherwise find difficulty to get past the check-post of logic?

So the evolutionary justification of this tendency is reasonable. But the problem with any kind of psychological tendency or mental programming is that it doesn't work well in all situations. Say, a person who is neither under pressure nor threatened should ideally not be prompted to remove doubt through rushing to some decision. Yet, more often than not we find ourselves doing exactly the opposite.

Doubt-avoidance tendency in stock markets

Have you observed the doubt-avoidance tendency manifesting itself in the stock markets? The answer is a loud 'yes' in our view. How often do you trade on impulse without asking the right questions? How open are you to hear negative things about stocks that you are very optimistic about? When a person comes to the stock markets with a bag full of money to invest, he is usually inclined to fall in love with any stock that seems promising. The boredom and pain that is usually part of a thorough scrutiny and analysis of a stock is often avoided. Quick conclusions and quick decisions are often preferred instead of the burden of doubts and ambiguity.

Without any exaggeration, we strongly believe that if you learn how to reign over the doubt-avoidance tendency while you conduct your business in the stock markets, there is little that can stop you from becoming a successful investor.

» Next: Time to change your deeply held beliefs?

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