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Subjective Probability


Subjective probability is a financial term used to quantify an individual’s personal judgment or belief about the likelihood of a particular event occurring. It’s based on a person’s own experience and information, and therefore can vary from person to person. Unlike objective probability, it is not based on standard mathematical concepts or historical data.


The phonetic transcription of “Subjective Probability” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) would be /sʌbˈdʒɛktɪv prɑːbəˈbɪlɪti/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Subjective Probability is a type of probability that is based on an individual’s personal judgment or own experience about whether a particular outcome is likely to occur. It is subjective and varies from person to person, hence the term ‘subjective’.
  2. The way Subjective Probability is calculated is usually based on an individual’s own knowledge and experiences, or opinions, rather than on a fixed data set. This can lead to it being biased and less accurate than other types of probability.
  3. Despite its potential to be inaccurate due to personal bias, Subjective Probability is commonly used in the fields of psychology, economics, and various types of decision-making processes. This is because human beings often need to make decisions based on personal judgement, particularly when precise data is not available.


Subjective probability is crucial in business and finance for decision-making processes. It provides a framework for individuals or organizations to make judgments based on their perceptions, beliefs, or confidence levels about specific outcomes, often when objective information is not available or insufficient. This could be related to predicting market trends, assessing the risk of business ventures, or planning financial portfolios. Despite its subjective nature, it offers valuable insights for strategic planning, risk management, and forecasting, which are integral to financial success and business growth. The understanding and application of subjective probability can essentially help in the optimization of decision-making under uncertainty, contributing to more informed and potentially successful decisions.


Subjective probability is a critical tool in finance and business as it assists in making judgments and decisions under uncertainty. This type of probability relies on an individual’s personal judgment or the specific experience of an expert to estimate the outcome of an event. It is subjective because it relies on personal beliefs, hypotheses or estimates rather than empirical or objective data. This is often prevalent in areas of finance and business where outcome data is limited or non-existent, and decision-makers must rely on their expertise and intuition to predict future events. The purpose of subjective probability is to enhance the decision-making process and risk assessment in various business scenarios. Companies often face situations that lack historical data or have unique circumstances, where objective probability cannot provide insightful guidance. In such cases, decision makers rely on subjective probability, utilizing their knowledge, instincts, and experience to fill data gaps. Subjective probability, therefore, plays a crucial role in strategic planning, risk management, investment decisions, and other areas integral to business and finance. For instance, a venture capitalist may use subjective probability to assess the success likelihood of a startup based on their experience and industry knowledge.


1. Investment Decisions: An investor may estimate the subjective probability of various investments yielding high or low returns based on past performance, economic forecasts, or their understanding of the market. For instance, an investor might believe there’s a 70% chance that shares of a particular tech company will increase in the next year, based on their subjective analysis of the company’s product roadmap, leadership, and market position.2. Marketing Forecasts: A marketing manager may use subjective probability when planning campaigns. They might assess the likelihood of success based on factors like product popularity, past campaign results, and current market trends. For example, they might estimate a 65% chance of reaching their quarterly sales targets with a planned marketing strategy.3. Credit Risk Assessment: Banks and lenders often use subjective probability when assessing the risk of lending to individuals or businesses. They might consider the applicant’s credit score, employment status, and payment history, along with economic factors, to estimate the probability of the loan being repaid in full. For instance, they might assess that there’s an 80% chance a certain client will repay a loan based on these subjective criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Subjective Probability in finance and business?

Subjective Probability is a type of probability derived from an individual’s personal judgment about whether a specific outcome is likely to occur. It contains personal bias and is based on the individual’s past experience and personal interpretation of the situation or risk/return scenario.

How is Subjective Probability different from Objective Probability?

While Objective Probability is based on factual information, like previous data or statics, and not influenced by personal biases or beliefs, Subjective Probability completely depends on personal judgment and experience, making it highly individual and variable.

Is Subjective Probability reliable in financial decision-making?

It varies from individual to individual. Subjective Probability can be used effectively in financial decision-making, particularly when limited historical data is available or in highly volatile markets. However, it may also be influenced by personal biases and emotions, and thus can lead to incorrect decisions if not properly checked.

Can Subjective Probability be quantified?

Yes, Subjective Probability can be quantified into numerical values based on the individual’s degree of belief. However, this quantification is purely subjective and can vary greatly between different individuals.

How is Subjective Probability used in risk assessment?

In financial analysis and risk assessment, subjective probability often comes into play when analysts make predictions about a company’s future performance based on their interpretation of available data and their personal experience in the industry.

Where can we most commonly see the usage of Subjective Probability?

One of the most common usages of Subjective Probability can be seen in Bayesian statistical methods, where prior probabilities (initial beliefs) are updated with new data to result in revised, or posterior, probabilities.

Can biases impact the effectiveness of using Subjective Probability?

Yes, biases can greatly impact the objectivity and accuracy of Subjective Probabilities. Individuals might overestimate the likelihood of certain events based upon their personal experiences or beliefs, leading to potential miscalculations in decision-making processes.

Related Finance Terms

  • Bias
  • Bayesian Statistics
  • Personal Probability
  • Risk Assessment
  • Uncertainty

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