By John Mauldin, The Market Oracle:
“To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none… The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear …”– Friedrich Nietzsche
“Any explanation is better than none.” And the simpler, it seems, in the investment game, the better. “The markets went up because oil went down,” we are told. Then the next day the opposite relationship occurs, and there is another reason for the movement of the markets. But we all intuitively know that things are far more complicated than that. As Nietzsche noted, dealing with the unknown can be disturbing, so we look for the simple explanation.
“Ah,” we tell ourselves, “I know why that happened.” With an explanation firmly in mind, we now feel we know something. And the behavioral psychologists note that this state actually releases chemicals in our brain that make us feel good. We literally become addicted to the simple explanation. The fact that what we “know” (the explanation for the unknowable) is irrelevant or even wrong is not important for the chemical release. And thus we look eagerly for reasons.
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