Trading Psychology: A Beginner’s Guide

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 15, 2023

Although it gets most of the attention, mastering technical and fundamental analysis is only part of the equation. Understanding trading psychology is a crucial skill that separates successful traders from the rest.

Learning how to overcome trading fear, greed or bias is an essential skill you may need to develop as a trader. This article examines trading psychology in detail, how to improve it, and the emotions you should guard against when trading. 

What Is Trading Psychology

Trading psychology is the mental and emotional state you experience when trading. It refers to aspects of a trader’s behavior that influence the decision-making process when trading securities. 

Trading psychology is as important — if not more — than fundamental and technical analysis because emotions usually override logic.

The Basics of Trading Psychology

Understanding your trading psychology can be key to your performance as a trader. Let’s figure out several types of emotions you may experience in trading that you can manage to help improve your performance.

1. Greed

Greed is the temptation to behave irrationally in search of excessive profit. When a trader wants to buy more shares of a position that has performed well but doesn’t have the capital, leverage may provide the fuel to add positions. Borrowing money to take excessively large positions could be a sign of greed. Traders may also hold on to positions for too long in hopes of making more significant profits.

2. Fear

Trading fear refers to the anxiety caused by the possibility of loss, real or imagined. Traders might experience four types of fear: fear of missing out (FOMO), fear of loss, fear of being wrong, and fear of letting a win turn into a loss. You might close out a position too early or be too afraid to open a trade. 


Joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, and contentment are indicators of happiness. But just like fear, happiness can cloud a trader's decision-making process. For example, you may be happy that a stock price is going up and stay in the stock, when this could be a cue for you to take a profit.


Anger is an intense emotional state you feel when a trade has gone wrong. It is characterized by feelings of stress, frustration and irritation. It might drive you to make a rash decision to exit a position early if you’re mad about its short-term performance, even if your strategy is long-term.


You can experience pride from repeated trading success. But this success could make you feel like you’re guaranteed to make money, blinding you to taking on an extra risk that could lead to losses.


Impatience is the inability to wait, which usually appears as intolerance, irritability or restlessness. Impatient traders can feel frustrated and abandon carefully crafted plans. You might try to day trade a stock without a real plan instead of holding a position long-term.

3. Bias

Behavioral biases are subconscious ways of thinking that influence your actions in ways you may not be aware of. Here are some biases you should guard against as a trader.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency for traders to search for information that validates their trading strategy or plans. For example, a trader can disregard negative news about a company because they like the stock. 

Representative Bias

Representative bias occurs when a trader formulates the probability of an outcome based on the appearance of similarity of an object or event. An example is assuming that finance experts are the best source of information about a stock.

Status Quo Bias

When a trader believes that previous strategies will remain effective, this prejudice is known as the status quo bias. An example is the belief that stocks and bonds always move in opposite directions, as they have for the past few decades. 

Negativity Bias

Negativity bias means focusing on the downside of a trade rather than taking both sides (good and bad) into account.  You might assume that tech stocks are bad investments because of recent price declines while disregarding other factors that have impacted the sector like rate hikes or an impending recession.

Gambler's Fallacy

Commonly associated with gambling, this fallacy refers to a trader’s propensity to predict the outcome of a trade based on prior experiences without solid information to back up their claims. An example is assuming that bond yields would go higher because of rising rates irrespective of current economic conditions, like the possibility of a recession.

Anchoring Bias

Anchoring bias is a trading bias where you draw conclusions based on the first piece of information you encounter while disregarding subsequent information. If you bought Inc. before its stock split and owned it at $3,000, it might seem cheaper now that it’s trading at around $84.

Hindsight Bias

The tendency for people to claim that they "knew it all along" when the result of an event that was previously unclear becomes known is referred to as hindsight bias. An example would be claiming that you knew that oil prices would rise because of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Behavioral Finance

Behavioral finance is a discipline that studies how psychology influences the behavior of financial practitioners (traders and investors). Certain aspects of behavioral finance influence trading decisions. Take a look at some of them.

1. Mental accounting

Mental accounting explains how traders assign subjective value to certain strategies or accounts that are not entirely logical. A trader might assign more importance to making money in a taxable brokerage account that’s immediately accessible, whereas longer-term investing is put on the back burner.  

2. Herd Behavior

The propensity for traders to follow others even though there is no compelling reason for them to do so is known as herding.  Buying GameStop Corp. shares just because it trends on social media follows herd behavior.

3. Emotional Gap

The emotional gap refers to making trading decisions based on extreme emotions such as excitement, fear, anxiety, greed or anger. 

Strategies to Improve Trading Psychology

After learning about the emotions and biases that affect trading psychology, you can use the following strategies to work on them. 

1. Identify Personality Traits

When actively trading, you can maintain awareness of individual personality traits that could impact decision-making. 

2. Research and Learn Continuously

Spend adequate time researching and learning about a security before investing. The market is always changing and so are the reactions of market participants.

3. Practice Through Paper Trading

Practice makes perfect, especially in trading. Paper trading gives you a chance to assess how you would react in certain situations and also refine your reactions and emotional responses.  

4. Develop a Trading Plan

A trading plan acts as a road map that outlines the objectives you hope to accomplish, your risk/reward profile and the trading approach you feel most comfortable with. You can visualize your trades, outline your decision-making approach and solidify your game plan.

5. Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal of your trades is a good way to keep your emotions in check while trading. A journal reminds you of why you entered a trade. 

6. Take a Break After Losses

When you take a series of losses, it is always advisable to take a break. Taking a break not only pauses the cycle of losses but also allows you to reflect on things you may have done wrong and how to approach your trades better. 

Master Your Emotions and the Market

Rather than trying to master the market solely through technical analysis and valuation methods, you can also try noticing how your personality might affect trading decisions. Taking stock of the emotions you experience makes you better prepared for the unexpected. By understanding how investors make decisions, you can recognize emotions and trading biases and guard against them. 

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you control psychology while trading?


You control psychology while trading by being disciplined and understanding the emotions and biases that can affect your trading plan. 


What are trading emotions?


Trading emotions are emotions you experience while trading. Anger, excitement, fear, and greed are some examples of emotions you can experience when trading.


What is the mindset of a trader?


The mindset of a trader is the attitude, behavior or mannerisms with which a trader approaches or executes trading strategies.

Anna Yen

About Anna Yen

Anna Yen, CFA is an investment writer with over two decades of professional finance and writing experience in roles within JPMorgan and UBS derivatives, asset management, crypto, and Family Money Map. She specializes in writing about investment topics ranging from traditional asset classes and derivatives to alternatives like cryptocurrency and real estate. Her work has been published on sites like Quicken and the crypto exchange Bybit.