Groups, social processes and decision making in finance

Alexandru Preda (Business School, Kings College London Management, London, UK)
Gulnur Muradoglu (School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK)

Qualitative Research in Financial Markets

ISSN: 1755-4179

Publication date: 26 June 2019



This paper aims to investigate a double puzzle, empirical and theoretical. Empirically, can the authors document the influence of groups on financial decisions in investments and trading? Theoretically, if decisions in a group context can be documented, how can we account for them, against the background of the normative models, according to which financial decisions are individualized and atomized? Based on interviews and ethnographic observations with fund managers, analysts and traders, the authors document here decision-making in finance. Theoretically, the authors argue that financial decisions can be explained if, in addition to cognitive processes, the authors take into account the impact of social interactions on the decision-making process. Social interactions are not restricted to imitation processes, and can be seen here as the efforts deployed by decision-makers at maintaining and managing the context of their decisions. The authors present and discuss empirical evidence and argue that the study of social interactions can productively contribute to understanding how decisions are made in finance.


The data analyzed here have been gathered between 2001 and 2011, and include: interviews with investment professionals (fund managers and analysts) from the UK and Turkey; interviews with individual investors from the UK and the USA; and observations with individual investors from the UK and the USA. This captures decision activities conducted in different regulatory frameworks of those countries. The authors focussed in the interviews on general decision-making practices.


Conclusion the authors have sought to answer a double puzzle, empirical and theoretical. Empirically, the puzzle is how investors and traders resort to groups in their decision-making. Theoretically, the puzzle consists not only in providing an explanation for such processes but also in taking into account that they do not fit the normative models of decisions in mainstream finance. The argument has been that in addition to the cognitive processes identified and discussed in behavioural finance, the authors need to take into account the impact of social processes as well. Social processes include the efforts deployed by financial decision-makers at maintaining and managing the contexts within which decisions are made. The work of context maintenance is intrinsic to the logic of decision-making. The authors have identified, documented and discussed here the social dynamics in financial decisions with respect to performance, managing group relationships and possible conflicts.


Managing relationships within groups is not without consequences with regard to trading decisions. Oftentimes, avoiding group conflicts – or being confronted with them – leads to decisional adjustments, which have less to do with returns on trades than with the necessity of accommodating social relationships. As several of the interviewees emphasized, making decisions implies consensus and reaching consensus requires accommodating relationships.



Research for this paper has been partially funded by the ESRC grant Technology, Action and Cognition in Online Anonymous Markets, RES 062-23-1204 (Alex Preda).


Preda, A. and Muradoglu, G. (2019), "Groups, social processes and decision making in finance", Qualitative Research in Financial Markets, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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