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Animal Spirits


“Animal Spirits” is a term used in economics to describe the emotional and psychological factors that drive investors to take action, regardless of the underlying fundamentals. The concept suggests that the fluctuations in the financial markets are driven not solely by economic data, but also by the instinct, intuition, or gut feelings of investors. It was popularized by economist John Maynard Keynes to explain unpredictability and irrationality in financial markets.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Animal Spirits” is: /ˈænɪməl ˈspɪrɪts/.

Key Takeaways

Sure, here it is:

  1. Animal Spirits refers to the emotional and psychological factors that influence economic decision-making and therefore the economy. These include confidence, fairness, corruption and the illusion of money.
  2. The concept argues that economic activity is driven not just by cold, calculated rational decisions, but also by irrational and unpredictable elements of human nature.
  3. Understanding Animal Spirits is crucial to predicting and managing economic trends. Policy makers, economists, and business leaders who disregard them often fail to foresee critical changes in markets.


The term “Animal Spirits” is crucial in the business/finance context as it refers to the psychological and emotional factors that drive investors to take action in the market. It is a key concept developed by renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, highlighting the role of confidence, optimism, fear, and other subjective elements influencing business decisions and shaping market trends. Animal spirits can often lead to changes in economic indicators even in the absence of changes in fundamental factors. For example, a sudden burst of optimism can trigger increased spending and investment, leading to economic growth, while a wave of pessimism can dampen these activities causing economic downturns. Therefore, understanding animal spirits is imperative for predicting and interpreting market movements and economic fluctuations.


The term “Animal Spirits” is used within the finance and business industry to describe how humans make decisions that drive economic activity beyond the conventional explanations of income, interest rates, or confidence in future earnings. The phrase was brought to the forefront by British economist John Maynard Keynes, who used it to illustrate how emotional instincts and sentiments often influence and trigger decision-making processes of individuals, corporations and even governments. This concept gives room to factors such as optimism, pessimism, fear, and trust that often determine the propensity to spend, save, or invest.The purpose of recognizing “Animal Spirits” is to understand the psychological factors that can significantly impact the functioning of the economy. For instance, during a period of economic boom, the optimism and confidence (“Animal Spirits”) of investors may cause them to invest more in stocks, expanding economic activity even further. Similarly, during an economic downturn, fear and pessimism may cause people to save more and spend less, leading to a decrease in economic activity. Economists and policy makers use this understanding to forecast economic trends and to devise strategies to counteract unfavorable conditions or stimulate growth. Understanding “Animal Spirits” helps to explain the underlying reasons for economic fluctuations and allows for more holistic economic analysis and planning.


“Animal Spirits” is an economic term introduced by John Maynard Keynes, used to describe how people make decisions based on their emotions rather than logic. Here are three real-world examples illustrating this concept:1. Stock Market Behavior: Perhaps the most common example of animal spirits in action is the behavior of the stock market. Despite any rational analysis of fundamentals, stocks can rapidly increase or decrease in value solely based on investor sentiment. For instance, during the dotcom bubble in late 90s, prices of tech stocks soared beyond their actual value because investors were overly optimistic (or had irrational exuberance), and ignored basic economic fundamentals such as profitability and cash flow.2. Real Estate Bubbles: Another example could be seen in the housing market crash in 2008. Leading up to the crash, many people were buying properties with the hope that prices would continue rising, ignoring the fact that houses were being overvalued and that the increase in prices was unsustainable. This irrational behavior was led by the animal spirits, resulting in the real estate bubble that eventually burst.3. Consumer Spending: The term can also relate to consumer spending behaviors. For example, in a thriving economy when job security is high and wages are rising, consumers may become more optimistic and decide to spend more, often using credit. This may lead to increased economic activity but can also result in high levels of debt if not managed properly. The optimism pushing consumers to spend more than they can afford is often attributed to animal spirits.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are Animal Spirits in the financial context?

Animal Spirits is an economic concept that refers to the psychological and emotional factors that drive investors to take action in the market. These factors can include optimism, pessimism, confidence, fear and other forms of sentiments which can cause fluctuations in the market.

Where does the term ‘Animal Spirits’ originate from?

The term ‘Animal Spirits’ was popularized by the British economist John Maynard Keynes in his 1936 book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, where he used it to describe how investors’ decision-making can be led by spontaneous optimism rather than purely logical calculations.

Why are Animal Spirits important in economics and finance?

Understanding Animal Spirits is crucial as it helps to explain market trends that cannot be accounted for by fundamental factors alone. The collective mood of investors fueled by Animal Spirits, can lead to economic bubbles or recessions, influencing market movement significantly.

What are some examples of Animal Spirits in the market?

The dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and the housing market bubble of the mid-2000s are examples of how Animal Spirits (excessive optimism and speculative behavior) can drive market prices far above their intrinsic values, leading eventually to market corrections or crashes.

Can one accurately predict and measure Animal Spirits?

Predicting and measuring Animal Spirits is challenging because they involve psychological and emotional factors which are inherently unpredictable and immeasurable. However, economists and market analysts often use measures of investor sentiment and confidence indices as proxies for Animal Spirits.

How can investors guard against the influence of Animal Spirits?

Investors can mitigate the impact of Animal Spirits by maintaining a diversified portfolio, avoiding herd behavior, and making informed decisions based on thorough market analysis rather than being driven by emotions or market sentiments.

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