The term “recency bias” gets thrown around a lot in the trading scene, but what exactly is it?
In the most basic sense, recency bias refers to the tendency of traders to look at only the latest set of events while disregarding older but equally important (or sometimes even more important) pieces of information.
Recency bias negatively affects the way a trader analyzes the market, as it clouds his judgment and damages his decision-making skills.
In forex, the most common manifestation of recency bias is when a trader zones in only on his most recent trading decisions and loses sight of the bigger picture.
An example of this is a fundamental trader that puts too much meaning in an economic event that just happened and fails to take into account the larger macroeconomic background.
Another example is a technical trader placing a lot of weight on newly formed candles, making him lose track of the long-term trends.
There is also a psychological aspect to it. Let’s say there are two traders.
Mike has won his last 3 trades and has an overall record of 4 wins and 6 losses. Mike’s account is up 1% year-to-date.
Meanwhile, John is on a 3-trade losing streak. John’s record is 8 wins and 7 losses and his account balance is up 5% year-to-date. Mike is high-fiving himself over his winning streak while John is down in the dumps.
But if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll see that John is actually ahead. He has more wins than losses and even his percentage gain is much larger than Mike’s.
If Mike and John choose to dwell on their more recent trades, they could succumb to recency bias which could adversely affect their future trade decisions.
Mike could end up ignoring possible warning signs and enter a trade hastily while John could become frustrated, abandon his risk management rules, and start overtrading. Both situations are clearly undesirable.
Do you often find yourself in either one of these (or similar) situations?
If you do, here are some tips to help you avoid succumbing to recency bias:
1. Keep a detailed forex trade journal
As we’ve discussed in the School of Pipsology, keeping a detailed trading journal is almost as good as having a coach watching over your shoulder and keeping track of your forex trade decisions.
By monitoring your progress along with the right and wrong moves you’ve made, you’ll be able to have a bird’s eye view of your overall forex trading performance and avoid zoning in on only your recent trades.
2. Write down your trade plan and make sure you stick to it.
If it helps, you can come up with a checklist of all the criteria that should be met before entering a trade.
This way, you’d be less likely to give in to your emotions – whether it’s overconfidence from your winning streak or increased hesitation after a trading slump – and be more focused in executing your trading plan.
3. Engage in deliberate practice.
Remember that deliberate practice can remind you why you created your trade plan in the first place and why it works.
Deliberate practice can also help you stay in sync with the dominant market themes and allow you to make adjustments to your trade plan if necessary.
By doing so, you’ll be able to take the bigger picture into consideration and assess your trading performance at the same time. Now that’s hitting two birds with one stone!
4. Monitor your emotions.
Taking stock of your emotions is one of the best ways to steer clear of recency bias.
If you feel that you are likely to give in to your emotions, step back and try to make a more objective assessment of your previous trades.
If you think that your losing streak is causing you distress, you might need to take a day off from trading or a quick vacation. Some listen to classical music for a couple of hours while others engage in self-dialogue or talking out loud while trading. What’s important is that you figure out what works best for you.