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Stocks and scares: Research finds financial language causes stress reactions

Two-thirds of people showed biological stress reactions when tested on their response to financial language, Barclays said.

Hearing financial terms such as ‘stockbroker’ and ‘investment risk’ really can strike physical fear into people, an experiment suggests (PA)
Hearing financial terms such as ‘stockbroker’ and ‘investment risk’ really can strike physical fear into people, an experiment suggests (PA)

By Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent

Hearing financial terms such as “stockbroker” and “investment risk” really can strike physical fear into people, research suggests.

Around two-thirds of people who took part in an experiment showed some biological stress reactions in response to being tested on their response to financial language, with 44% reporting an increased heart rate and 17% saying they broke out in a sweat.

Over a fifth (23%) reported experiencing muscle twitches, the study, from Barclays Smart Investor and Goldsmiths, University of London, found.

Overseeing the experiment, Jonny Freeman, a professor of psychology said: “Our experiment looked at participants’ behavioural responses to certain words, from which we could infer their emotional responses.

“Two-thirds of participants’ responses indicated increased anxiety when faced with financial lingo – with investment terms such as ‘stockbroker’, ‘asset manager’ and ‘investment risk’ causing the strongest reactions.”

Barclays said it has committed to reviewing and simplifying the language used on its Smart Investor platform.

Further research from Barclays found 86% of people say they are baffled by financial and investment jargon.

Dr Pete Brooks, head of behavioural finance at Barclays Smart Investor, said: “These results are fascinating because they suggest that it isn’t just a lack of understanding which is the barrier to investing.

“There appears to be a much more sub-conscious reaction to the language of investing, which education alone will find difficult to break down.”

PA

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