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Loss Aversion

What Is Loss Aversion?

Graph showing loss aversion. Gains are experienced less intensely than losses.
A simple concept to understand, but a super complicated formula to derive.

Loss aversion is a cognitive bias that explains why individuals tend to experience the psychological impact of losing something as being more intense than the pleasure they get from gaining something. The emotional impact of losing money or other valuable possessions can be far greater than the satisfaction obtained by acquiring the same possession.

Why does it matter? Loss aversion occurs frequently in financial decision-making. Investors typically show risk aversion when considering purchasing stocks, as they are discouraged by the possibility of financial loss, despite the potential for high returns. Loss aversion increases as more investments are involved.

Loss aversion extends beyond financial matters and significantly influences our day-to-day decision-making processes. Consider the inherent resistance towards abandoning material belongings, even when they have stopped fulfilling a functional role. Individuals often keep old clothing, electronics, or nostalgic objects because of a perceived loss associated with their disposal, despite the absence of any actual benefits from their preservation.

How Does It Play A Role With Other Biases?

Sunk Cost Fallacy

Loss aversion can also lead us down a path known as the sunk cost fallacy. The sunk cost fallacy is a phenomenon where people persist in investing resources, be it time, money, or effort, into a decision or project solely because they have already made prior investments. Even when it becomes clear that continuing down this path is no longer rational, individuals find themselves unable to let go.

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Imagine this scenario: You’ve spent countless hours working on a project, pouring your heart and soul into the endevour. However, as time goes on, you begin to realize that the project is not yielding the desired results. Logically, it would be wise to cut your losses and redirect your efforts elsewhere. But unfortunately, the sunk cost fallacy takes hold, and you find yourself unable to detach from the projectThe thought of abandoning all the time and effort you’ve already invested becomes a significant barrier to making a rational decision. Loss aversion and the sunk cost fallacy are closely intertwined. The fear of losing what we have already invested can cloud our judgment and prevent us from making sound choices.

Endowment Effect

Loss Aversion is closely tied to another intriguing concept known as the endowment effect. This effect sheds light on how individuals tend to place a higher value on items they own, compared to identical items they do not possess. The endowment effect is a captivating aspect of human behavior that has been extensively studied by psychologists and economists alike. It reveals an inherent bias towards the things we own, leading us to attach a greater significance to them.

mugs, cups, empty-459324.jpgExample time! You are given two identical coffee mugs, one of which you own and the other you do not. Surprisingly, research has consistently shown that most individuals would assign a higher value to the coffee mug they own. This means that if you were to sell the item you own, you would demand a higher price than what you would be willing to pay to acquire the same item if you did not already own it. In summary, loss aversion and the endowment effect are interconnected biases that stem from people’s emotional responses to ownership and potential losses.

What Can You Do About Loss Aversion?

earth, globe, planet-11015.jpgIn our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make decisions without considering the bigger picture. But taking a step back and adopting a broader viewpoint is crucial. By reminding ourselves of the lasting implications that may follow in the long run, we can make more informed choices that align with our values and goals. It’s all about thinking beyond immediate gratification and considering the ripple effects our decisions may have on our lives and the lives of others. So, next time you’re faced with a decision, remember to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Your future self will thank you for it.

library, books, bookshelves-1147815.jpgAnother way is rational analysis. It is vital to evaluate the issue with objective evidence, empirical data, and statistical probability. Why? While our feelings can certainly provide valuable insights, they can also cloud our judgment and lead us astray. Emotions are subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. What may seem like a logical choice to one individual might be completely different for another. By embracing a more evidence-based approach, we can ensure that our decisions are grounded in reality.

Objective and empirical evidence allows us to look at the bigger picture, taking into account various perspectives and factors that may influence the outcome. Evidence provides a solid foundation upon which we can build our understanding and make informed choices.


The phenomenon of loss aversion remains a subject of great interest among psychologists, economists, and anybody fascinated by the complex structure of human behavior. As individuals travel the complex array of options that life offers, a crucial factor lies in understanding our inherent tendency to prioritize the avoidance of losses over acquisition of gains. By expanding ones perspective and incorporating evidence, empirical data, and rational analysis, individuals can develop a more equitable method of decision-making, ensuring that their choices are in alignment with their goals and ultimately improving their overall state of wellbeing.

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All investors are unique.  The above characteristics are examples, but may not reflect your particular investor demographics or situation.  An advisor with Edgar Investment Management, LLC will assist you with finding the best type of account for you. 

Investment advisory services are offered through Edgar Investment Management, LLC, an investment advisor registered with the State of Texas. Edgar Investment Management, LLC only offers investment advisory services where it is appropriately registered or exempt from registration and only after clients have entered into an investment advisory agreement confirming the terms of engagement and have been provided a copy of the firm’s ADV Part 2A brochure document.

The content found on this website is developed from sources we believe provide accurate information and is for educational purposes only. The information on this website is not intended as tax or legal advice. Everyone’s tax and legal situation is different, so please consult trusted and knowledgeable legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided on this website are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.

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Investing is risky!  No guarantee as to performance of any investment is implied by this website.  Make sure you have evaluated your options and spoken with trained professionals before you implement any investment strategy.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  

Please be advised that Edgar Investment Management, LLC is a financial advisory firm specializing in investment management and financial planning services. We do not offer or provide any CPA-related services, including tax preparation, tax planning, or other accounting services. If you require assistance with tax-related matters, we recommend consulting a qualified CPA or tax professional who can provide specialized advice tailored to your individual needs.

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