Neurofinance: Exploratory Analysis Stock Trader's Decision-Making Process by Real-Time Monitoring of Emotional Reactions


  • Hsin-Tzu Hsu Laboratory of Applied Neuroscience, University of Saint Joseph, Macao, China
  • João Alexandre Lobo Marques Laboratory of Applied Neuroscience, University of Saint Joseph, Macao, China



Human emotions can be associated with decision-making, and emotions can generate behaviors. Due to the fact that it could be biased and exhaustively complex to examine how human beings make choices, it is necessary to consider relevant groups of study, such as stock traders and non-traders in finance. This work aims to analyze the connection between emotions and the decision-making process of investors and non-investors submitted to the same set of stimuli to understand how emotional arousal might dictate the decision process. Neuroscience monitoring tools such as Real-Time Facial Expression Analysis (AFFDEX), Eye-Tracking, and Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) were adopted to monitor the related experiments of this paper and its accompanying analysis process. Thirty-seven participants attended the study, 24 were classified as stock traders, and 13 were non-traders; the mean age for the groups was 35 and 25, respectively. The designed experiment initially disclosed a thought-provoking result between the two groups under the certainty and risk-seeking prospect theory; there were more risk-takers among non-investors at 75%, while investors were inclined toward certainty at 79.17%. The implication could be that the non-investing individuals were less complex in thought and therefore pursued higher returns besides a high probability of losing the game. In addition, the automatic emotion classification system indicates that when non-investors confronted a stock trending chart beyond their acquaintance or knowledge, they were psychologically exposed to fear, anger, sadness, and surprise. On the contrary, investors were detected with disgust, joy, contempt, engagement, sadness, and surprise, where sadness and surprise overlapped in both parties. Under time pressure conditions, 54.05% of investors or non-investors tend to make decisions after the peak(s) of emotional arousal. Variations were found in the deciding points of the slopes: 2.70% were decided right after the peak(s), 37.84% waited until the emotions turned stable, and 13.51% were determined as the emotional indicators started to slide downwards. Several combinations of emotional responses were associated with decisions. For example, negative emotions could induce passive decision-making, in this case, to sell the stock; nevertheless, it was also examined that as the slope slipped downwards to a particular horizontal point, the individuals became more optimistic and selected the "BUY" option. Future works may consider expanding the study to larger sample size, different demographic groups, and other biometrics for further analysis and conclusions.