Biff Robillard, president of Bannerstone Capital, wowed roundtable guests last year by dropping the term “chronocentrism” and explaining how it relates to investing.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what chronocentrism is. Few at the table did.
“It’s a word that means you believe you’re in unique times,” Robillard said. “You’re sort of centered on your own times and how unique they are.”
“It’s different this time?” others asked.
“Never fall for that,” Robillard chided. “Times are never that unique, so be careful about thinking we’re really up against it.”
We called Marc Bellemare, an associate professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota who has applied chronocentrism to his work on the economics of global food policy, to further define the term made popular by British journalist Tom Standage, a science and technology writer for the Guardian newspaper and a deputy editor at the Economist.
Bellemare was happy to find parallels to the world of investing in explaining the concept.
“Chronocentrism is [either] the belief that you are on the cusp of history, that this moment is very, very different from anything that came in the past,” he said. “Or it’s the belief that ‘This time is different.’ ”
For investing, Bellemare pointed out that we look no further than the housing crash and the dot.com bubble.
He suggests chronocentrism leads to another economic concept called retrospective discounting, where our present bias leads us to put a lot of stock in the present and carefully pick and choose what we want to believe about the past.
Thus chronocentrism could lead to a sort of investor paralysis.