Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel interviews Dr. Jason Williams. Jason is author of “The Mental Edge in Trading.” While going to medical school Jason fell in love with the brain and psychiatry. He was fascinated with figuring out all the different ways the brain worked. While finishing his psychiatry degree at John Hopkins he started working on a research project giving psychology tests to traders. The goal was to see if they could find any common themes among traders and how they think during trading. There are many similarities and he has built up a side business helping traders get in touch with their mental game.
Jason uses a test called the NEO PI-R. He explains the differences between the NEO PI-R and other personality tests such as Myers Briggs. He says that if you take Myers Briggs, and take it again a week later, the results are different 50% of the time. Myers Briggs gives extreme generalizations. It simply says if you are an extrovert or introvert and doesn’t go much deeper. Jason brings up horse jockeys and basketball players as examples. You can be tall, but not tall enough to be a pro basketball player. On the same note, you can be short, but not short enough to be a horse jockey. Looking at the extremes is critical. You need to look at not just if you are tall or short, but actually ask, “How tall are you? How short are you?”
“Once I know my personality, then what?” Jason says you need to ask yourself: What are my traits? Where am I on the scale? How can I use these to my advantage? How are they getting in my way? The NEO is a 5 factor model; neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and consciousness. Each trait has six sub-traits. Jason goes into depth with examples for all of the personality traits. For the most part, everyone has a personality and is unique. Sometimes the test will show you some “A-ha” surprise moments that give you a little more self-awareness. However, most people are in the middle of a personality trait scale. According to the laws of evolutionary psychology you don’t want to be too high or too low on the scales. It could drown out the logical or rational side of the brain.
One common thread Jason found between traders was that most have very low anxiety levels. Knowing when you are feeling anxious in the markets but not having the anxiety be so overwhelming that you are not executing correctly is important. Anxiety is what pushes you on and is somewhat of a barometer. The successful traders are able to adapt a trading strategy to their personality. He says it took his father, Larry Williams, some time to realize that it was better to create systems himself and let others execute. Sometimes it is better to adapt to your personality than try and change it.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio:
- Using your personality to your advantage
- Psychology of trading
- What is the NEO PI-R test?
- Why anxiety is important in trading
- Commonalities among traders
“The markets are very complex in understanding that nobody really understands how and why the markets move all the time.” – Dr. Jason Williams
Mentions & Resources:
- “The Mental Edge in Trading”
- Neo PIR test
- Ralph Vince
- Andrew Lo
- Daniel Kahneman
- Larry Williams
- Vernon Smith
- Foyer effect or Barnum effect
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