Why Humans Evolved Into Terrible Traders

Why Humans Evolved Into Terrible Traders

This is a Guest Post by AK of Fallible

AK has been an analyst at long/short equity investment firms, global macro funds, and corporate economics departments. He co-founded Macro Ops and is the host of Fallible.

Humans evolved over millions of years, spending a majority of their time roaming the planet as tribal hunters and gatherers. The advent of cities with large populations is relatively new considering that the Agricultural Revolution was only 10,000 years ago — a small tick of time in the grand scheme of human existence.

The fact that our brains were primarily developed within the harsh tribal lifestyle has many implications on our psychological makeup. It also explains why our pre-wired instincts naturally make us horrible traders.

So then what’s the deal with emotions? Are they an inherent weakness to humans?


In fact, emotions are very useful in certain situations.

Think back to the plains life:

A tribal man is walking back from a hunt when he’s suddenly confronted by a mountain lion. As the lion comes into view, his brain’s amygdala triggers a fight-or-flight response. The man is instantly hit with various emotions like fear, aggression, anxiety, etc. At the same time, physiological changes take place in his body. Hormones like adrenaline, testosterone, and cortisol are let loose to prep the man to either fight or run.

The man’s emotional/physiological response not only makes him stronger and more capable to survive this encounter, but it also enables him to make a decision in the blink of an eye. There’s no time to sit and ponder the best course of action in a life-or-death situation. Speed is key and emotions are instrumental in fueling rapid decision making.

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