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by Ashraf Laidi
Posted: Feb 20, 2010 5:00
Posted: Feb 20, 2010 5:00
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Main articles: Behaviorism, Psychological behaviorism, and Radical behaviorism
Skinner's teaching machine, a mechanical invention to automate the task of programmed instruction
A tenet of behavioral research is that a large part of both human and lower-animal behavior is learned. A principle associated with behavioral research is that the mechanisms involved in learning apply to humans and non-human animals. Behavioral researchers have developed a treatment known as behavior modification, which is used to help individuals replace undesirable behaviors with desirable ones.
The film of the Little Albert experiment
Early behavioral researchers studied stimulus–response pairings, now known as classical conditioning. They demonstrated that when a biologically potent stimulus (e.g., food that elicits salivation) is paired with a previously neutral stimulus (e.g., a bell) over several learning trials, the neutral stimulus by itself can come to elicit the response the biologically potent stimulus elicits. Ivan Pavlov—known best for inducing dogs to salivate in the presence of a stimulus previously linked with food—became a leading figure in the Soviet Union and inspired followers to use his methods on humans. In the United States, Edward Lee Thorndike initiated "connectionist" studies by trapping animals in "puzzle boxes" and rewarding them for escaping. Thorndike wrote in 1911, "There can be no moral warrant for studying man's nature unless the study will enable us to control his acts.":?212–5? From 1910 to 1913 the American Psychological Association went through a sea change of opinion, away from mentalism and towards "behavioralism." In 1913, John B. Watson coined the term behaviorism for this school of thought.:?218–27? Watson's famous Little Albert experiment in 1920 was at first thought to demonstrate that repeated use of upsetting loud noises could instill phobias (aversions to other stimuli) in an infant human, although such a conclusion was likely an exaggeration. Karl Lashley, a close collaborator with Watson, examined biological manifestations of learning in the brain.
Clark L. Hull, Edwin Guthrie, and others did much to help behaviorism become a widely used paradigm. A new method of "instrumental" or "operant" conditioning added the concepts of reinforcement and punishment to the model of behavior change. Radical behaviorists avoided discussing the inner workings of the mind, especially the unconscious mind, which they considered impossible to assess scientifically. Operant conditioning was first described by Miller and Kanorski and popularized in the U.S. by B.F. Skinner, who emerged as a leading intellectual of the behaviorist movement.
Noam Chomsky published an influential critique of radical behaviorism on the grounds that behaviorist principles could not adequately explain the complex mental process of language acquisition and language use. The review, which was scathing, did much to reduce the status of behaviorism within psychology.:?282–5? Martin Seligman and his colleagues discovered that they could condition in dogs a state of "learned helplessness", which was not predicted by the behaviorist approach to psychology. Edward C. Tolman advanced a hybrid "cognitive behavioral" model, most notably with his 1948 publication discussing the cognitive maps used by rats to guess at the location of food at the end of a maze. Skinner's behaviorism did not die, in part because it generated successful practical applications.
The Association for Behavior Analysis International was founded in 1974 and by 2003 had members from 42 countries. The field has gained a foothold in Latin America and Japan. Applied behavior analysis is the term used for the application of the principles of operant conditioning to change socially significant behavior (it supersedes the term, "behavior modification").
Early practitioners of experimental psychology distinguished themselves from parapsychology, which in the late nineteenth century enjoyed popularity (including the interest of scholars such as William James). Some people considered parapsychology to be part of "psychology." Parapsychology, hypnotism, and psychism were major topics at the early International Congresses. But students of these fields were eventually ostracized, and more or less banished from the Congress in 1900–1905. Parapsychology persisted for a time at Imperial University in Japan, with publications such as Clairvoyance and Thoughtography by Tomokichi Fukurai, but it was mostly shunned by 1913.
As a discipline, psychology has long sought to fend off accusations that it is a "soft" science. Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn's 1962 critique implied psychology overall was in a pre-paradigm state, lacking agreement on the type of overarching theory found in mature sciences such as chemistry and physics. Because some areas of psychology rely on research methods such as surveys and questionnaires, critics asserted that psychology is not an objective science. Skeptics have suggested that personality, thinking, and emotion cannot be directly measured and are often inferred from subjective self-reports, which may be problematic. Experimental psychologists have devised a variety of ways to indirectly measure these elusive phenomenological entities.
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Divisions still exist within the field, with some psychologists more oriented towards the unique experiences of individual humans, which cannot be understood only as data points within a larger population. Critics inside and outside the field have argued that mainstream psychology has become increasingly dominated by a "cult of empiricism," which limits the scope of research because investigators restrict themselves to methods derived from the physical sciences.:?36–7? Feminist critiques have argued that claims to scientific objectivity obscure the values and agenda of (historically) mostly male researchers. Jean Grimshaw, for example, argues that mainstream psychological research has advanced a patriarchal agenda through its efforts to control behavior
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Psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943 posited that humans have a hierarchy of needs, and it makes sense to fulfill the basic needs first (food, water etc.) before higher-order needs can be met.
Humanistic psychology, which has been influenced by existentialism and phenomenology, stresses free will and self-actualization. It emerged in the 1950s as a movement within academic psychology, in reaction to both behaviorism and psychoanalysis. The humanistic approach seeks to view the whole person, not just fragmented parts of the personality or isolated cognitions. Humanistic psychology also focuses on personal growth, self-identity, death, aloneness, and freedom. It emphasizes subjective meaning, the rejection of determinism, and concern for positive growth rather than pathology. Some founders of the humanistic school of thought were American psychologists Abraham Maslow, who formulated a hierarchy of human needs, and Carl Rogers, who created and developed client-centered therapy.
Later, positive psychology opened up humanistic themes to scientific study. Positive psychology is the study of factors which contribute to human happiness and well-being, focusing more on people who are currently healthy. In 2010, Clinical Psychological Review published a special issue devoted to positive psychological interventions, such as gratitude journaling and the physical expression of gratitude. It is, however, far from clear that positive psychology is effective in making people happier. Positive psychological interventions have been limited in scope, but their effects are thought to be somewhat better than placebo effects. The evidence, however, is far from clear that interventions based on positive psychology increase human happiness or resilience.
Humanistic psychology is primarily an orientation toward the whole of psychology rather than a distinct area or school. It stands for respect for the worth of persons, respect for differences of approach, open-mindedness as to acceptable methods, and interest in exploration of new aspects of human behavior. As a "third force" in contemporary psychology, it is concerned with topics having little place in existing theories and systems: e.g., love, creativity, self, growth, organism, basic need-gratification, self-actualization, higher values, being, becoming, spontaneity, play, humor, affection, naturalness, warmth, ego-transcendence, objectivity, autonomy, responsibility, meaning, fair-play, transcendental experience, peak experience, courage, and related concepts.
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Existential psychology emphasizes the need to understand a client's total orientation towards the world. Existential psychology is opposed to reductionism, behaviorism, and other methods that objectify the individual. In the 1950s and 1960s, influenced by philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger, psychoanalytically trained American psychologist Rollo May helped to develop existential psychology. Existential psychotherapy, which follows from existential psychology, is a therapeutic approach that is based on the idea that a person's inner conflict arises from that individual's confrontation with the givens of existence. Swiss psychoanalyst Ludwig Binswanger and American psychologist George Kelly may also be said to belong to the existential school. Existential psychologists tend to differ from more "humanistic" psychologists in the former's relatively neutral view of human nature and relatively positive assessment of anxiety. Existential psychologists emphasized the humanistic themes of death, free will, and meaning, suggesting that meaning can be shaped by myths and narratives; meaning can be deepened by the acceptance of free will, which is requisite to living an authentic life, albeit often with anxiety with regard to death.
Personality psychology is concerned with enduring patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. Theories of personality vary across different psychological schools of thought. Each theory carries different assumptions about such features as the role of the unconscious and the importance of childhood experience. According to Freud, personality is based on the dynamic interactions of the id, ego, and super-ego. By contrast, trait theorists have developed taxonomies of personality constructs
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1. Anchoring Trap
First, there is the so-called anchoring trap, which refers to an over-reliance on what one originally thinks. Imagine betting on a boxing match and choosing the fighter purely by who has thrown the most punches in their last five fights. You may come out all right by picking the statistically more-active fighter, but the fighter with the least punches may have won five bouts by first-round knockouts. Clearly, any metric can become meaningless when it is taken out of context.
For instance, if you think of a certain company as successful, you may be too confident that its stocks are a good bet. This preconception may be totally incorrect in the prevailing situation or at some point in the future.
Take, for example, electronics retailer Radio Shack. Once a thriving seller of personal electronics and gadgets in the 1980s and 1990s, the chain was crushed by online retailers such as Amazon (AMZN). Those trapped in the perception that Radio Shack was there to stay lost a lot of money as the company filed for bankruptcy multiple times and shrinking from its heyday size of 7,300 stores to 70 outlets by the end of 2017.1
In order to avoid this trap, you need to remain flexible in your thinking and open to new sources of information, while understanding the reality that any company can be here today and gone tomorrow. Any manager can disappear too, for that matter.
#2. Sunk Cost Trap
The sunk cost trap is just as dangerous. This is about psychologically (but not in reality) protecting your previous choices or decisions — which is often disastrous for your investments. It is truly hard to take a loss and/or accept that you made the wrong choices or allowed someone else to make them for you. But if your investment is no good, or sinking fast, the sooner you get out of it and into something more promising, the better.
If you clung to stocks that you bought in 1999 at the height of the dot.com boom, you would have had to wait a decade to break even, and that is for non-technology stocks.2 It's far better not to cling to the sunk cost and to get into other assets classes that are moving up fast. Emotional commitment to bad investments just makes things worse.
#3. Confirmation Trap
Similarly, in the confirmation trap, people often seek out others who have made and are still making, the same mistake. Make sure you get objective advice from fresh sources, rather than consulting the person who gave you the bad advice in the first place. If you find yourself saying something like, "Our stocks have dropped by 30 percent, but it’s surely best just to hang onto them, isn’t it?" then you are seeking confirmation from some other unfortunate investor in the same situation. You can comfort each other in the short run, but it’s just self-delusion.
#4. Blindness Trap
Situational blindness can exacerbate the situation. Even people who are not specifically seeking confirmation often just shut out the prevailing market realities in order to do nothing and postpone the evil day when the losses just have to be confronted.
If you know deep down that there is a problem with your investments, such as a major scandal at the company or market warnings, but you read everything online except for the financial headlines, then you are probably suffering from this blinder effect.
#5. Relativity Trap
The relativity trap is also there waiting to lead you astray. Everyone has a different psychological make-up, combined with a unique set of circumstances extending to work, family, career prospects and likely inheritances. This means that although you need to be aware of what others are doing and saying, their situation and views are not necessarily relevant outside their own context.
"I think a lot of people tend to equate their self worth with their income, or they think that social media, these days puts pressure on people to make it look like they're doing better than they are. And because of that, people feel bad," said Amy Morin, Verywell Mind’s editor-in-chief. "We look at somebody else who has a new car or somebody else whose house looks beautiful and think, 'Oh, why don't I have that?' And those emotions that get stirred up, I think for a lot of people are really difficult. Then how do you decide what you really value in life and what's most important?"
Be aware, but beware too! You must invest for yourself and only in your own context. Your friends may have both the money and the risk-friendliness to speculate in pork belly futures (as in the movie Trading Places), but if you are a modest earning and nervy person, this is not for you.
#6. Irrational Exuberance Trap
When investors start believing that the past equals the future, they are acting as if there is no uncertainty in the market. Unfortunately, uncertainty never vanishes.
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A technical indicator is a series of data points that are derived by applying a formula to the price data of a security. Price data includes any combination of the open, high, low or close over a period of time. Some indicators may use only the closing prices, while others incorporate volume and open interest into their formulas. The price data is entered into the formula and a data point is produced. For example, the average of 3 closing prices is one data point [ (41+43+43) / 3 = 42.33 ].
However, one data point does not offer much information and does not make for a useful indicator. A series of data points over a period of time is required to create valid reference points to enable analysis. By creating a time series of data points, a comparison can be made between present and past levels. For analysis purposes, technical indicators are usually shown in a graphical form above or below a security's price chart. Once shown in graphical form, an indicator can then be compared with the corresponding price chart of the security. Sometimes indicators are plotted on top of the price plot for a more direct comparison.
What Does a Technical Indicator Offer?
A technical indicator offers a different perspective from which to analyze the price action. Some, such as moving averages, are derived from simple formulas and the mechanics are relatively easy to understand. Others, such as Stochastics, have complex formulas and require more study to fully understand and appreciate. Regardless of the complexity of the formula, technical indicators can provide a unique perspective on the strength and direction of the underlying price action.
A simple moving average is an indicator that calculates the average price of a security over a specified number of periods. If a security is exceptionally volatile, then a moving average will help to smooth the data. A moving average filters out random noise and offers a smoother perspective of the price action. Veritas (VRTSE) displays a lot of volatility and an analyst may have difficulty discerning a trend. By applying a 10-day simple moving average to the price action, random fluctuations are smoothed to make it easier to identify a trend.
Why Use Indicators?
Indicators serve three broad functions: to alert, to confirm and to predict.
An indicator can act as an alert to study price action a little more closely. If momentum is waning, it may be a signal to watch for a break of support. Alternatively, if there is a large positive divergence building, it may serve as an alert to watch for a resistance breakout.
Indicators can be used to confirm other technical analysis tools. If there is a breakout on the price chart, a corresponding moving average crossover could serve to confirm the breakout. If a stock breaks support, a corresponding low in the On-Balance-Volume (OBV) could serve to confirm the weakness.
According to some investors and traders, indicators can be used to predict the direction of future prices.
Tips for Using Indicators
Indicators indicate. This may sound straightforward, but sometimes traders ignore the price action of a security and focus solely on an indicator. Indicators filter price action with formulas. As such, they are derivatives and not direct reflections of the price action. This should be taken into consideration when applying analysis. Any analysis of an indicator should be taken with the price action in mind. What is the indicator saying about the price action of a security? Is the price action getting stronger? Weaker?
Even though it may be obvious when indicators generate buy and sell signals, the signals should be taken in context with other technical analysis tools. An indicator may flash a buy signal, but if the chart pattern shows a descending triangle with a series of declining peaks, it may be a false signal.
On the Rambus (RMBS) chart, MACD improved from November to March, forming a positive divergence. All the earmarks of a MACD buying opportunity were present, but the stock failed to break above the resistance and exceed its previous reaction high. This non-confirmation from the stock should have served as a warning sign against a long position. For the record, a sell signal occurred when the stock broke support from the descending triangle in March-01.
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As always in technical analysis, learning how to read indicators is more of an art than a science. The same indicator may exhibit different behavioral patterns when applied to different stocks. Indicators that work well for IBM might not work the same for Delta Airlines. Through careful study and analysis, expertise with the various indicators will develop over time. As this expertise develops, certain nuances, as well as favorite setups, will become clear.
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