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Opinion

How Culture Influences Our Financial Decisions

By Adam Alter

adam alter head shot 2013 article image

We live in a globalized society, but it’s easy to forget that culture varies from place to place.

For many Americans, Friday, December 13th, 2013, will be a day of moderate trauma. The same was true of Friday, September 13th, and will be true again of Friday, June 13th, 2014. These people, known as friggatriskaidekaphobics, are so afraid of Friday the Thirteenth that some suffer panic attacks and alter their daily routines. One study even found that stock-market returns are far lower on Friday the Thirteenths than on other Fridays.

Easterners are puzzled by the Western preoccupation with the number thirteen, but many people in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and other East Asian countries similarly fear the number four. One analysis, to be published late next year, found that U.S. copper, cotton, and soybeans experience lower commodities-market returns on the fourth day of each month, when superstitious Chinese brokers prefer to postpone their trading decisions. Both Samsung and Nokia avoid cell phone-model numbers containing the digit four, and Nokia’s S60 software platform released its fifth edition immediately after its third edition.

Read the full article as published in The New Yorker.

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Adam Alter is an Assistant Professor of Marketing with affiliated appointment in the Psychology Department.