Keynesian Beauty Contest

beauty by richard borge

A Keynesian beauty contest [keyn-zee-uhn] is a concept developed by economist John Maynard Keynes in 1936 to explain price fluctuations in equity markets. Keynes described the action of rational agents in a market using an analogy based on a fictional newspaper contest, in which entrants are asked to choose a set of six faces from photographs of women that are the ‘most beautiful.’ Those who picked the most popular face are then eligible for a prize.

Keynes said: ‘It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.’ Keynes believed that similar behavior was at work within the stock market. This would have people pricing shares not based on what they think their fundamental value is, but rather on what they think everyone else thinks their value is, or what everybody else would predict the average assessment of value is.

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