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A Sense Of Self: What Happens When Your Brain Says You Don’t Exist

Science journalist Anil Ananthaswamy thinks a lot about “self” — not necessarily himself, but the role the brain plays in our notions of self and existence.

In his new book, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Ananthaswamy examines the ways people think of themselves and how those perceptions can be distorted by brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Cotard’s syndrome and body integrity identity disorder, or BIID, a psychological condition in which a patient perceives that a body part is not his own.

Ananthaswamy tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about a patient with BIID who became so convinced that a healthy leg wasn’t his own that he eventually underwent an amputation of the limb.

“Within 12 hours, this patient that I saw, he was sitting up and there was no regret. He really seemed fine with having given up his leg,” Ananthaswamy says.

Ultimately, Ananthaswamy says, our sense of self is a layered one, which pulls information from varying parts of the brain to create a sense of narrative self, bodily self and spiritual self: “What it comes down to is this sense we have of being someone or something to which things are happening. It’s there when we wake up in the morning, it kind of disappears when we go to sleep, it reappears in our dreams, and it’s also this sense we have of being an entity that spans time.”


Gait Pattern Alterations during Walking, Texting and Walking and Texting during Cognitively Distractive Tasks while Negotiating Common Pedestrian Obstacles

Apparently, the long winded title above is from a study that says that when text and walk you have a tendency to bang into thing – no shit Sherlock.

It should also mention that you give the rest of us the shits when you bang into us.

Advisers’ Stock Recommendations Drag Down Clients’ Portfolios

Investors trading stocks with assistance of financial advisers are more diversified and overcome some common pitfalls, a new working paper from European researchers found.

But they are worse off overall than investors who trade independently, because their stock purchases underperform, the study says.

The findings suggest advisers “do not help investors make superior stock purchases,” wrote the researchers, who examined client transactions at a large, unidentified Swiss bank.

There was “consistent evidence” that stock trades made by investors in conjunction with an adviser underperformed benchmarks as well as trades investors made independently, the researchers say.

Moreover, the underperformance was “particularly severe if the client-advisor contact was initiated by the adviser, suggesting that advisers actively approach clients with rather poor trading ideas,” the paper says.

On the plus side, the researchers found that clients who made trades in conjunction with an adviser were better diversified, less likely to show a bias toward local stocks and less likely to hold on to losing stocks while selling winners. However, these positive effects weren’t enough to overcome the negative impact of advisers’ stock choices, the researchers said.

More here – The Wall Street Journal

The message, dont listen to sell side advisors.

Size Matters

With all the chatter about ETF’s I thought I would generate a dodgy collection of ETF’s and then look at their current market capitalisation. When I started the exercise I was interested to see where the liquidity risk might lie within the spectrum of the ETF’s I was looking at. When looking at an instrument I tend not to focus on how magical it may initially appear but on what can go wrong. ETF’s can present a liquidity risk to traders – it is all too easy to get in but it may be impossible to get out.

What did surprise me about the list below is the enormous disparity in size – I was prepared for there to be a sizeable spread in the distribution, but the actual size of the spread surprised me. In my list the smallest ETF  (UBP) has a market cap of $950,000, and is minuscule compared than BlackRocks behemoth iShares MSCI EAFE (IVE) which has a cap of around $83B. However, this figure whilst impressive doesn’t convey the entire picture since IVE’s average daily volume is only around 10,000 shares, whereas STW has a market cap of about $3 billion but an average daily volume of around 175,000 shares. Sheer mass is impressive and is to be expected from the likes of BlackRocks offerings. However, liquidity in the form of turnover is more important to the trader and when I get time I will try and generate a list of ETF with average daily turnover figures.

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However Vast The Darkness

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Trust Me Im An Expert

The next time you sit down to read the business section of the paper or watch one of the business shows consider this –

“The more people believed they knew about finances in general, the more likely they were to overclaim knowledge of the fictitious financial terms.

The same pattern emerged for other domains, including biology, literature, philosophy, and geography.

For instance, people’s assessment of how much they know about a particular biological term will depend in part on how much they think they know about biology in general.”

More here – PsyBlog

This in many ways is simply an adjunct to the work done on experts and their predictive ability by Philip Tetlock which I have written about before. See here, here, here  and here.

Too few adopt Goethe’s maxim – Doubt grows with knowledge

What A Brilliant Idea

This is a rare feel-good story about financial literacy. In 1996, John Rogers, head of $11 billion Ariel Investments, helped start an elementary school focused on financial education in a low-income neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Each class gets a portfolio and buys and sells its own stocks. Students get a portion of the gains at graduation.

So far the Ariel Community Academy has disproved doubters (including me—I wrote an article a decade ago skeptical of financial education and mentioned the school). It now offers one of the strongest cases for teaching finance early. Students at the academy, which today goes up to the eighth grade, consistently out-test the city and the nation.

They’re also getting jobs. Last year Rogers hired his first Ariel graduate, Mario Gage, 23, in the marketing department. Gage was in the school’s second graduating class, before going on to study economics at the University of Chicago. His brother, also an Ariel grad, landed an internship at a hedge fund.

Given Ariel’s success, Rogers hopes other firms will follow its lead and partner directly with schools. “We need to jump-start job creation in urban areas,” he says. “Financial literacy is a big part of that.” Gage thinks so too. “The school put a lot of possibilities in my brain,” he says. “It definitely works.”

More here – Fortune

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