scorecardresearchExplained: Mental models and how they influence our investment decisions
An investor's perception of risk is significantly influenced by their mental models.

Explained: Mental models and how they influence our investment decisions

Updated: 25 May 2023, 07:17 PM IST
  • Investment decisions can be significantly influenced by mental models, which can change risk tolerance, portfolio design, and overall investment performance.

Being an informed decision-maker and having a deep understanding of the financial markets are essential for investing, which is a complex and difficult endeavour. However, mental models, which are cognitive frameworks or beliefs that affect how people perceive and interpret information, frequently have an impact on how investors make decisions. Investment decisions can be significantly influenced by mental models, which can change risk tolerance, portfolio design, and overall investment performance. In this article, we'll examine the idea of mental models and talk about how they relate to investing.

Mental Models
Mental Models

Learning about mental models

In order to make sense of their surroundings, people use mental models, which are deeply ingrained thought patterns. They are shaped by a confluence of social influences, personal experiences, education, and cultural upbringing. Mental models allow people to simplify complex situations and form judgments based on prior knowledge and presumptions. They act as filters through which people process information and make decisions.

Influence on investing

An investor's perception of risk is significantly influenced by their mental models. Based on their mental models, various people may evaluate the same investment opportunity in different ways. A moderately risky investment, for instance, might seem excessively risky to someone with a more conservative mental model, while it might seem like a chance for potential gains to someone who is more risk-tolerant.

Understanding one's mental model is essential for balancing investment choices with personal risk tolerance and managing risk appropriately.

Investors can assess and control risk using mental models. Investors can assess the potential downside and upside of an investment by understanding various risk factors and how they interact. Investments in fields that are well-understood by investors are encouraged by mental models like the "Circle of Competence," which lowers the possibility that they will make unwise choices.

Long-term perspective

Mental models encourage an investment focus on the long term. The benefit of being patient and disciplined is highlighted by models like "Time Arbitrage," which acknowledge that the market's short-term fluctuations frequently present opportunities for long-term investors. Investors who keep their attention on the fundamental value of their investments rather than the short-term market volatility are less likely to react rashly to it.

Decision-making biases

Cognitive biases that influence investment decisions can result from mental models. For instance, confirmation bias is the propensity to ignore contrary evidence in favor of information that supports one's existing beliefs. This bias may prevent investors from evaluating investment options objectively, which could result in less-than-ideal choices.

Investors can choose more logically and objectively by recognizing and combating biases brought on by mental models.

Making decisions is made more structured thanks to mental models. Making better investment decisions is made possible by their assistance in analyzing and interpreting data about businesses, markets, and industries. A mental model such as "Margin of Safety," for instance, can direct investors to look for investments with a built-in buffer against potential risks.

Mental models help people become more aware of cognitive biases that can affect their investment choices. Models like "Confirmation Bias" or "Herd Mentality" aid investors in identifying prevalent biases and actively attempting to lessen their effects. Investors can make more unbiased and logical investment decisions by questioning preconceptions and seeking out alternative viewpoints.

Flexible approach

Mental models promote flexibility and adaptability in financial decisions. Investors are able to adapt their strategies as new information becomes available because they understand that mental models are not infallible. Investors who adopt a variety of mental models are better able to navigate shifting market conditions and modify their investment strategies as necessary.


Investment portfolio diversification can be aided by using mental models. Models like “The Wisdom of Crowds” emphasize the advantages of diversifying investments across various asset classes, industries, and geographical locations. Investors can lower specific risks related to individual investments and increase overall risk-adjusted returns by diversifying their portfolios.

Building a portfolio

Investors' portfolio construction is influenced by their mental models. A portfolio may be heavily weighted toward growth stocks if the investor has a mental model that favors them, potentially neglecting diversification. A portfolio that is heavily weighted in undervalued stocks may result from using a value-oriented mental model. Understanding mental models can motivate investors to diversify their holdings and take into account alternative investment options.

Perspective from a distance

An investor's time horizon and capacity to maintain commitment during market fluctuations can be impacted by mental models. A short-term mental model may make an investor more susceptible to panic selling during market downturns. On the other hand, a trader with a long-term perspective is more likely to stick to a plan of action and weather short-term market volatility. More positive outcomes may result from a solid mental model that prioritizes long-term investing.


In making investment decisions, mental models have a big impact on risk perception, biases, portfolio construction, and the capacity to keep a long-term perspective. Making wise investment decisions requires an understanding of and an evaluation of one's mental models. Investors can better navigate the complexity of the financial markets by recognizing the impact of mental models and working to create more comprehensive and flexible frameworks.


Shuchi Nahar is a Certified Research Analyst. She can be found on Twitter at @shuchi_nahar

Note: This article is for informational purposes only. Please speak to a SEBI-registered investment advisor before making any investment related investment-related decision.


Traders and markets.
Traders and markets.
First Published: 25 May 2023, 07:17 PM IST