Trading on illusions: unrealistic perceptions of control and trading performance

Fenton-O'Creevy, M.; Nicholson, N.; Soane, E. and Willman, P. (2003). Trading on illusions: unrealistic perceptions of control and trading performance. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 76(1) pp. 53–68.



This paper examines the impact of illusory control beliefs on the performance of traders in financial instruments. The authors argue that the task and environment faced by traders are conducive to the development of illusions of control and that individual propensity to illusion of control will be (inversely) related to trader performance. Using an innovative computer task, designed to assess illusion of control in the field, data from 107 traders in four organizations showed individual differences in this bias to have a significant, inverse, association with performance, as measured by managers' ratings of trader performance and by total remuneration. The authors conclude that, at least in this context, illusion of control is maladaptive and that it is productive to take an individual difference approach to the study of such illusions. Implications for debates about the costs and benefits of positive illusions are discussed.

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