15 Metaphors for Investing

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He stresses the fundamental importance of emotions for the decisions and performances on the trading floor, revealing how the market is faced by professionals as a multi-typed game. That being so, interviewees and the sociological literature convinced me of the power of this metaphor, that relates the stock market to the cultural universe of games. The results of this analytical approach are displayed in the next section of this paper. Three topics that stir up game metaphors. On which contexts of the interviews do investors feel the need of expressing the market on the basis of a game?

What kind of games are they evoking when they do so? And how does it affect their concrete behavior as investors? These are the questions I will try to answer here.

By analyzing the record and the transcription of the interviews, I have distinguished three topics from which references to the universe of games arise: a. What kind of money I invest on stocks. Viviana Zelizer has gathered lots of empirical evidence about the fact that people do not comprehend money as a neutral or homogeneous substance. On the contrary, people tend to separate, categorize and establish diverse symbolic meanings for money along with different social situations, that is, social relations frequently institutionalize controls and distinctions in the sources, uses, allocation and quantity of money: modern society marks and shapes money as it is shaped by money as well 7.

Let them speak for themselves:. This kind of definition can be thought as a legitimation strategy, for the own individual as well as for others, of his condition of investor, that is, the interviewee admits that the market is risky and uncertain, such as gambling is, but he avoids moral accusations that can be risen against people who like gambling by stressing out that the money he invests, if lost, won't cause financial jeopardy for his 'house', 'car' or for his 'kid': neither his family or social status are endangered by his trading habits.

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Another trait generally present at the definition of the 'money for stocks' as a special money is the fact that interviewees do not easily allocate money separated for other purposes to make their capital grow. When explaining how he deals with his money on stocks, we find another usual reference to games in the words of another investor:. When the interviewee says that if the money on stocks eventually disappears, it won't cause any trouble to his life, once more it's hard not to take it as a legitimation strategy, for himself and for others, included here the own researcher, who, presenting himself as a student of sociology, is likely to be identified, by the interviewee, as someone far from the world of the stock market 8.

When I asked them what were the goals for the money invested, they generally said that the money on stocks could be used, in the future, for luxurious spending, such as traveling, for instance. That doesn't mean that associating the market to the universe of games is something we commonly find only when it comes to these investors. Actually, my point is that this specific kind of association between games and market is more common to the kind of investors we've just described, while more active and sophisticated investors will compare the market to games within other frameworks, as I intend to demonstrate on the following topics.

Things I don't do in the market. Sometimes the game metaphor arises when interviewees are explaining what kind of trades they prefer not to undertake. Again, as we will see, the game they are referring to is one of a betting kind. Nevertheless, this time, they do not mean to associate the whole stock market to a game that is eminently risky and uncertain, depending intensely on luck or on the lack of it.

The stigmatized practices and groups of stocks are associated to the cultural universe of games, in an attempt to portray these practices and stocks through the negative moral status evoked by this universe. One investor was explaining that 'his business' was only trading the blue chips , which are the stocks from the largest companies, with the highest liquidity in the market and acknowledged to be safer choices of investment.

He argued that blue chips carry less risk than less liquid stocks from small or not so huge companies, that are known, respectively, as small and middle caps. But while talking about these other two groups of stocks he didn't make any reference to games. Another investor made a similar point, in order to complete his explanation on the reasons why he prefers to hold his stocks for some days, about the day-trading practice Explaining that he neither liked to hold his stocks for longer than a month nor to day-trade, he states regarding the last:.

Well, here a question can emerge: do these last investors also evoke the market as it was showed in the previous topic? Isn't it a controversy? No, I wouldn't say so. In my point of view, investors are making use of the game metaphor mainly for reflecting about the stock market, for making it intelligible according to references and comparisons taken from another cultural universe of meaning, one which is more popular and closer to them. In this sense, the game metaphors can emerge at different contexts and can be evoked with different purposes by the same interviewee.

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To conclude this topic, let's analyze a case in which the game metaphor evidences an investor that, consciously, trades by two different logics, depending on the kind of stock he is dealing with. This investor is a recently retired man who has made use of his stock trades to complete his monthly income, without trades, according to him, it would be impossible to pay the bills of his wife and three kids. After telling me that most of his trades and invested money is concentrated on short trades with blue chips, he adds:.

To sum it up, this investor makes use of the game metaphor to illustrate his conscious altering between two different logics of trading, depending on the diverse nature of stocks involved. A certain game, a special market. More sophisticated investors also talk about the market on the basis of a game. By more sophisticated investors I mean the ones whose decision-making processes involves the usage, to a large extent, of the analytical tools provided by software, updated in real time with the data from the stock market, designed to support investment choices. There are two approaches to stock analysis: the fundamental analysis and the graphical or technical analysis.

Basically, the first consists on the analysis of the balance sheet of a company, its financial data conjugated to the way the market values its stocks, while the second simply makes no reference nor to financial nor to economic data about the companies, it focuses only the mathematical tools and equations to analyze their graphs of price and trading volume of their stocks. The more sophisticated investors generally evoke the game metaphor in a different way.

The specific logic of this game would not rest upon either a strictly objective analysis of the financial conditions of a company or a correct apprehension of concrete economic trends.


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The brain is always computing temperature, but not always computing affection. Thus, there is more activation regularly flowing from the Temperature region to the Affection region, which will lead to first-spiking in the Temperature to Affection direction. Examples: There's nothing standing in my way. I hit a roadblock on this project. He has reached his goal. This, of course, another obvious example. Not all of out motions are purposeful. We do a lot of aimless moving. This the Motion Schema will be activated more than the Purposeful Action Schema, resulting in first-spiking occurring in the Motion to Action direction, predicting that Motion will spike first in its direction and so will be the metaphorical Source.

So far, this works for the many cases checked out.


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  5. The result is that the Source and Targets of primary metaphors can be predicted by the STDP theory of neural learning, which is a truly remarkable result. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of primary metaphors structuring our conceptual system. They are learned via neural learning mechanisms early in life, usually before language, just by functioning in the everyday world. Each primary metaphor neurally maps one primitive schema onto another, creating an asymmetric circuit linking them.

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    But each primitive schema can also occur independently of any metaphor circuitry. That means that the metaphor circuitry must be gated: normally the gates modulating the connecting synapses would not be firing above base rate; the metaphor circuit is turned on when the gates are turned on, emitting sufficient neurotransmitters to allow activation to flow.

    Each submapping has a gate. In the whole mapping, the gates work together.

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    The theory requires the submapping gates and the gate for the whole mapping to form a gestalt circuit. Activating any submapping activates the whole mapping, and activating the whole mapping activates each submapping. As before, gestalt circuits have easy-to-learn combinations of activation and threshold strengths. In Narayanan's theory of primary metaphor, the metaphors are neural circuits asymmetrically linking two brain regions, a source region to a target region, with inferences from the source region used in the target region.

    That means that the physical consequences of source domain activation will, via the metaphor circuitry, yield corresponding target domain activation. Here are some cases of conceptual metaphors and the confirming experiments, in which there is source domain brain activation connected via metaphor circuitry to target domain brain regions that govern target domain behavior.

    They were also active in observing the experience of pain in a loved one. But with a stranger, the pain reaction in the anterior insula is lower. Crime is a Beast. When crime was framed metaphorically as a beast, participants took a much more direct approach in their proposals: catching and jailing criminals and enacting harsher enforcement laws. Afterward, as a token of appreciation, the experimenters offered the subjects a choice between the gift of a pencil or of a package of antiseptic wipes.

    Those who had described an immoral act were more likely to choose the wipes.


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    In a similar study later, subjects either did or did not have the opportunity to clean their hands. Those who were able to wash were less likely to respond to a request for help that the experimenters had set up that came shortly afterward. That is, washing expunged the guilt, and they saw no need to perform a helping act to expunge their guilt. Those with warm memories of acceptance judged the room to be 5 degrees warmer on the average than those who remembered being coldly snubbed.

    Why does this happen? Conceptual metaphors are asymmetrical physical circuits in the brain allowing the consequences of source domain activation to apply in the cases of target domain activation. Those consequences can be a sense of filth after immoral behavior, inferences affecting crime policy, feelings of pain in empathy with a loved one, leaning forward physically, judgments of importance or temperature, and so on.

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    Experimental results of this sort were predicted by the idea of embodied conceptual metaphor. The experimental confirmation goes well beyond the cases just listed.

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    The following two dozen studies will provide a sense of how robust the phenomenon is: Fishy smells induce suspicion, negative moral evaluation lessens the value of money, wiping the slate clean allows one to ignore past mistakes, unburdening yourself of a secret lowers the estimation of the upward slant of hills, and many more cases where metaphor circuitry linking two brain areas leads to behavior deriving from the physical metaphor linkage. Enjoy these: Boroditsky, ; Singer et al. This should not be thought of as a mere laundry list of cases.