Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 18, Iss. 3, July, 2014, pp. 297-328
@2014 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


The Performance-Variability Paradox, Financial Decision Making, and the Curious Case of Negative Hurst Exponents

Stephen J. Guastello, Marquette University, Milwaukee,WI
Katherine Reiter, Marquette University, Milwaukee,WI
Anton Shircel, Marquette University, Milwaukee,WI
Paul Timm, Marquette University, Milwaukee,WI
Matthew Malon, Marquette University, Milwaukee,WI
Megan Fabisch, Marquette University, Milwaukee,WI

Abstract: This study examined the relationship between performance variability and actual performance of financial decision makers who were working under experimental conditions of increasing workload and fatigue. The rescaled range statistic, also known as the Hurst exponent (H) was used as an index of variability. Although H is defined as having a range between 0 and 1, 45% of the 172 time series generated by undergraduates were negative. Participants in the study chose the optimum investment out of sets of 3 to 5 options that were presented a series of 350 displays. The sets of options varied in both the complexity of the options and number of options under simultaneous consideration. One experimental condition required participants to make their choices within 15 sec, and the other condition required them to choose within 7.5 sec. Results showed that (a) negative H was possible and not a result of psychometric error; (b) negative H was associated with negative autocorrelations in a time series. (c) H was the best predictor of performance of the variables studied; (d) three other significant predictors were scores on an anagrams test and ratings of physical demands and performance demands; (e) persistence as evidenced by the autocorrelations was associated with ratings of greater time pressure. It was concluded, furthermore, that persistence and overall performance were correlated, that ”healthy” variability only exists within a limited range, and other individual differences related to ability and resistance to stress or fatigue are also involved in the prediction of performance.

Keywords: financial decisions, time pressure, Hurst exponent, dynamic criteria, stress, fatigue