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Reflexivity in finance is a theory that suggests prices can influence fundamentals and that those newly influenced set of fundamentals can then impact prices. This self-reinforcing effect can lead to boom and bust cycles. It was popularized by George Soros, an investor and philanthropist, through his works in investing and philosophy.


The phonetic spelling of “Reflexivity” is: /rɪˌflɛkˈsɪvɪti/

Key Takeaways

  1. Self-Awareness: Reflexivity involves constant self-awareness and critical self-reflection, where individuals or researchers examine and understand their own biases, beliefs, and actions, and how these can affect their perception and interpretation of others and the world around them.
  2. Effect on Research: In research, it is recognized that the background, personal experiences, and the researcher’s interactions with the subjects can influence the results. Reflexivity is used in qualitative research to acknowledge this effect, provide transparency, and enhance the validity and reliability of the study.
  3. Continuous Process: Reflexivity is not a one-time action; it is a continuous process that happens throughout the research. Researchers must continually reflect on their role and influence, their relationship with the participants, and the ethical implications of their research.


Reflexivity is a pivotal concept in the fields of business and finance due to its emphasis on the circular relationship between cause and effect. The principle, originated by George Soros, suggests that market participants’ biases can influence the market direction that can, in turn, reinforce those biases, establishing a self-reinforcing loop or feedback mechanism. This theory challenges the traditional economic view of a static and predictable market, introducing a dimension of uncertainty and subjective participant influence. Therefore, understanding reflexivity is crucial for investors, financial analysts, and economists as it helps them recognize potential market bubbles, abrupt setbacks, or other unpredictable market behaviors, aiding in making more informed and strategic investment and business decisions.


Reflexivity, in the context of finance and business, is a theory proposed by George Soros that suggests market values are often driven by the perceptions of traders and investors, not only by the economic fundamentals of the assets. Essentially, it signifies a feedback loop where the investors’ perception affects the market situation, and the changing market further influences the investors’ perception. Thus, it posits that markets are not always in equilibrium because they influence, and are influenced by, the traders that participate in them.

The purpose of reflexivity is to provide a framework for understanding how subjective beliefs and perceptions of market participants can significantly impact the objective financial market reality. For instance, if investors believe that a company’s value will increase, they will purchase its shares, consequently pushing up the stock price, regardless of the underlying economic viability of the company. Hence, reflexivity is used in forecasting market trends and making investment decisions, thereby playing a crucial role in financial markets and investment strategies.


Reflexivity is an economic theory proposed by George Soros that suggests that the valuation of any market or asset is an outcome of the participants’ viewpoint, and these viewpoints can affect the valuation, causing a feedback loop of self-reinforcing positivity or negativity.

1. U.S. Housing Market Crash (2008): One of the most recognized examples of reflexivity in the real world was the U.S. housing market crash in 2008. Prior to the crash, the real estate market was in a positive reflexivity loop, with investors, banks, and homeowners all assuming that property values would keep increasing. This led them to take risks, such as subprime mortgages. However, when the bubble burst, reflexivity came into play again, but this time in a negative loop. As the prices started to fall, investors panicked, selling off their assets which further drove down the prices. The banks tightened their lending standards as well, which led to even fewer buyers and further price decreases.

2. Bank Run: The concept of reflexivity can also be observed in a bank run. If for some reason, depositors believe a bank might become insolpective, they rush to withdraw their money. Even if the bank was initially healthy, such a massive withdrawal of funds can actually cause the bank to become insolvent. Hence, the depositors’ belief and their following actions could end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is an example of reflexivity.

3. Tech Boom of the late 1990s: The dotcom bubble also provides an example of reflexivity. During the late 1990s, investors became overly optimistic about the potential profits of internet-related companies. Their enthusiasm led them to invest heavily in these companies, pushing stock prices to excessively high levels. This overvaluation was later followed by a severe market crash when these online companies couldn’t generate the expected profits. This event demonstrated both cycles of reflexivity – the first being investor optimism leading to overvaluation, and the second being the stark correction causing a ‘burst’ of the bubble.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is reflexivity in finance and business?

Reflexivity in finance and business refers to the concept that investors’ perceptions can influence or change economic fundamentals, which in turn can alter investors’ perceptions.

Who coined the term ‘reflexivity’?

The term ‘reflexivity’ was popularized in finance by investor George Soros. However, it was initially a sociological concept introduced by William Thomas in the early 20th century.

How does reflexivity work in a financial context?

Reflexivity refers to a feedback loop where investors’ bias or perceptions can influence their actions, leading to changes in the market, which in turn reinforces or changes these perceptions.

Can you provide an example of reflexivity in finance?

As an example of reflexivity, if investors believe that a company’s stock will rise, they will buy more of that stock, leading to an increase in the stock price. This can validate their initial perception that the stock price would rise.

Is reflexivity a type of self-fulfilling prophecy?

Yes, reflexivity can indeed be viewed as a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, it’s worth noting that it can also be a self-defeating prophecy if the altered market conditions do not support the initial perceptions of the investors.

Are there any criticisms of reflexive theory in finance?

Critics argue that reflexivity contradicts the efficient market hypothesis, which postulates that the market prices accurately reflect all available information. They argue that this creates market inefficiencies that can be exploited.

How can understanding reflexivity help in financial decision-making?

Understanding reflexivity can help investors anticipate potential market changes brought about by changes in investor perceptions, enabling more strategic decision-making.

Related Finance Terms

  • George Soros: The investor and philanthropist who popularized the concept of reflexivity in economics.
  • Feedback Loops: These are a crucial part of reflexivity, representing how the perceptions and actions of market participants can influence market fundamentals.
  • Market Equilibrium: A concept related to reflexivity. It challenges the traditional view that markets always tend towards equilibrium.
  • Behavioral Finance: This field of finance closely relates to reflexivity, as it also considers how the psychological behavior of investors/markets influences price movements.
  • Cognitive Bias: The distortions in how we perceive reality, which influence our economic decisions and market behaviors, relate to reflexivity.

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