Freud’s psychiatric conclusions have largely been discredited but he rightly maintains praise for understanding the central role of metaphor and narrative in human thought. Professor Cowen HERE, is only the latest to build on this theme although importantly, he concentrates on the negative, blinding aspects of the tendency. Nowhere is this more clear than in the “stories” that surround investments.
Choosing a metaphor presupposes a conclusion. For instance, there’s no way to hear “the Chinese economy is a bubble” without unconsciously associating the country’s outlook with fragility and inevitable disappearance of a soap bubble. If we describe China’s GDP as similar to a hot air balloon on the other hand, our subconscious will immediately become more suceptible to the argument that upcoming government stimulus will right the economic ship. (You see what I did there – the use of the word “ship” is insidious.)
Good metaphors are a double-edged sword and their ubiquity in stock pitches suggests investors remain on their guard, never accepting one outright no matter how successfully it seems to communicates the situation.