The boiling frog syndrome plays a very decisive role not only in biology and natural ecosystem but also in the business, finance and investment. The final investors are human beings and thus the behavioral finance, specially the biases are getting important decision-making factors in the present investment world.
Table of Contents
The boiling frog syndrome
The boiling frog syndrome shows how accepting and compromising minor changes may cause catastrophic death. It metaphorically presents the fatal death of a frog but human life or investment is set to suffer if not proactive timely. In our personal and social life, we are taught to adopt situations with little discomfort. We are ready to take some pains to keep as the things are. Compromising mentality is a positive trait in the society too. However, there are situations we need to take proactive steps to avoid greater losses of health or wealth. The boiling frog syndrome warns us from smaller negative changes before turning to the catastrophes.
The boiling frog syndrome explained:
The boiling frog theory is a metaphor describing the failure to react small problems may increase in severity and reach catastrophic consequences.
The boiling frog concept is that if you place a frog in already boiled water, it will jump out but if you place in normal water and gradually heat to boiling water, it will try a little and consequently face death.
The concept is a metaphor presented with a frog but applies to everywhere. It is a story to warn the human community about being cautious to small changes that might bring life-taking consequences. It says that if you put a frog suddenly in any pot with boiling water, it will jump out of the pot if within the capacity.
The reason is that as the sudden boiling water is a threat for its life, it will react promptly with all possible capacity. However, if you put the frog in a pot with normal water, the frog will not feel insecure to jump out as the life is not at stake. Then when you and keep heating gradually, it will feel a bit uncomfortable and try to accommodate the minor changes rather getting out.
If the heating continues, frog tries to accept and compromise. It also tries to get out but not with all power. Then, at one point, the heat turns the warm water to boiling water and the frog tries to get out but fails as it has been week enough to utilize full potential. Thus, the frog suffers a sad death in boiling water that could be avoided when the water started getting hot.
Examples of the boiling frog syndrome
Frog is an element in the metaphor but the theory applies to almost all walks of life including society, person life, investments etc. Let us find some practical aspects and examples that support the boiling frog syndrome.
The boiling frog syndrome in personal life:
- We deal with many disturbing and negative people hoping that they will be alright some day and the effects are not so severe. Over the time, they get so much harmful that may hamper our normal life.
- We may be dissatisfied with the salary or environment of the office and adopt as the severity is low. We do not look for opportunities when there are scopes. After few years, we will have hardly any scope to leave the job for versatile reasons but the life gets unbearable with the environment.
- Our marriage life may suffer from complexities that we compromise and ignore. There comes time when we can not get separated or keep compromising. Life seems hell but we have hardly any way out.
The boiling frog syndrome in personal life
- we may have some assets or securities that have not future potential. The price goes down slowly and we do not offload. At a point of time, the price goes so down that we face a brutal loss. We could avoid if proactively sold. As the price did not get down suddenly, we ignored the problem.
- We may trade with someone in credit. There might be some gradual accumulation over time. At one time,
The boiling frog syndrome in action
- 1960 for sympathy towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War;
- 1980 collapse of civilization anticipated by survivalists;
- 1990s inaction to climate change, abusive relationships and slow erosion of civil liberties.
- 1996 novel The Story of B, environmentalist author Daniel Quinn wrote a chapter on the boiling frog
- 1997 Pierce Brosnan’s character Harry Dalton in the Dante’s Peak warning volcano’s reawakening
- 2006 Al Gore used a version of the story in a New York Times op ed, in his presentations and the movie An Inconvenient Truth about global warming.
- 2010 writer/director Jon Cooksey in the title of his comedic documentary How to Boil a Frog.
- 2003 Law professor and legal commentator Eugene Volokh mentioned that regardless of the frogs in reality, the story is useful as a metaphor, as to the metaphor of an ostrich with its head
- 2009 Economics Nobel laureate and New York Times op-ed writer Paul Krugman used the story as a metaphor in July column, mentioning that real frogs behave otherwise.
- 2006 Journalist James Fallows suggests to stop retelling the story, as it as a “stupid canard” and a “myth”. However, after Krugman’s column he was a bit soft.
Is the boiling frog syndrome true?
The boiling frog syndrome is better to take as a metaphor, not literally true. The story about the frog has been ruled out by many and suggested as conceptually accepted.