What Does Contrarian Investing Mean?

What Does Contrarian Investing Mean?

Investing requires a multidisciplinary approach and an analysis of multiple complex factors that affect the performance of financial instruments.

Thousands of financial analysts work every day to analyze markets themselves, as well as with the help of software tools that aggregate data from millions of sources. 

This creates a broader market sentiment and consensus. For example, when interest rates are increasing rapidly, analysts may forecast a recession on the horizon, as expensive credit slows down borrowing and consumption. 

However, some investors tend to go against the prevailing narrative whenever they can and invest in assets that benefit from the opposite scenario taking place. When most of the market is fearful, they invest heavily in growth and when the market is optimistic, they open short positions or start to sell. 

This is called contrarian investing and has been a phenomenon on the markets for decades. 

Contrarian investing is a highly risky ordeal and requires a lot of sound information to base investment decisions on. Otherwise, a contrarian investment can backfire, resulting in major losses to the investor. 

How Does Contrarian Investing Work?

Contrarian investing is an investment strategy that involves going against the prevailing market sentiment or consensus. 

Typically, contrarian investors believe that the market often overreacts to news and events, causing assets to become overvalued or undervalued.

Contrarian investors often buy when others are selling and selling when others are buying. However, this is a blanket statement that might not apply to every investor that acts this way. For instance, Warren Buffett, the legendary “Sage of Omaha”, is known to adhere to the same principle and is considered to be the most popular contrarian investor in the world, even though he also invests in major companies that many other investors are bullish on, such as Apple (NYSE:AAPL) and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)

Contrarians often invest in the short-to-mid term in an attempt to capitalize on the prevailing sentiment that they themselves do not subscribe to. 

Why Does Contrarian Investing Exist?

You might be wondering why contrarian investing even exists and why it’s so profitable. After all, some of the wealthiest investors of all time have been known for their contrarian stances during major economic events. 

To put it simply, Contrarian investing exists because financial markets are not always rational or efficient. Market participants often exhibit herd behavior, which can lead to asset prices becoming disconnected from their underlying fundamentals.

This divergence between market sentiment and intrinsic value creates opportunities for contrarian investors.

The two primary factors driving contrarian investment decisions are greed and fear. In the case of the stock market, when a bullish run is present and most stocks are going up over the span of a year, investors may forget that this growth cannot continue forever, driving the prices higher and higher, until a correction happens. Contrarian investors may sense this and open short positions before the prices hit the peak, securing even more profits for themselves once a correction does happen. 

Crypto Fear And Greed Index

The same principles ring true on the crypto market as well. However, investors also have a very handy tool to determine the sentiment of the market, called the Fear and Greed Index

The index uses price data from some of the most popular cryptocurrencies across various exchanges to determine whether the prevailing price action is causing the market to overheat, or whether trading volumes are abnormally low. The index measures the degrees of fear and greed on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 signaling total panic and 100 showing irrational optimism. 

Using this data, contrarian crypto investors may also choose to buy put options or go short in anticipation of a bearish trend when prices are too high. 

Pros And Cons Of Contrarian Investing

Contrarian investing comes with its fair share of opportunities and risks and investors need to consider these factors carefully in order to avoid unnecessary risk and heavy losses. 


  • High Profit Potential: Contrarian investors can capitalize on market mispricing and sentiment extremes. When the majority of investors are overly optimistic or pessimistic, contrarians can buy low and sell high, potentially generating significant profits when market sentiment eventually corrects
  • Diversification: Contrarian investing often involves taking positions that are opposite to the consensus view. This can lead to a diversified portfolio because contrarians may invest in assets or sectors that are currently out of favor
  • Long-Term Perspective: Contrarian investors tend to have a longer-term perspective. They are willing to hold onto their positions even when they initially go against the prevailing market sentiment


  • Timing Challenges: One of the primary drawbacks of contrarian investing is the difficulty in timing market reversals. It's challenging to determine when market sentiment will shift and when an undervalued or overvalued asset will return to its true value
  • Psychological Stress: Going against the crowd can be psychologically demanding. Contrarian investors often face skepticism and criticism when their investment choices diverge from popular opinion
  • Potential for Losses: Contrarian strategies do not guarantee success. There are times when market sentiment continues to move in the same direction, and assets remain overvalued or undervalued for extended periods

Key Takeaways From What Does Contrarian Investing Mean

  • Contrarian investing is the act of investing against the prevailing market sentiment
  • The rationale of contrarian investing is based on the assumption that market participants tend to act irrationally, leading to overbought and oversold conditions 
  • Some of the most famous contrarian investors include the likes of Warren Buffett, George Soros, and Ray Dalio, among others 
  • The Crypto Fear and Greed Index is a useful indicator for contrarian crypto investors to evaluate market sentiment 

FAQs On Contrarian Investing

What is contrarian investing?

Contrarian investing is a strategy where investors go against prevailing market sentiment. They buy undervalued assets when others are pessimistic (fear) and sell overvalued assets when others are optimistic (greed), aiming to profit from market sentiment corrections.

Is contrarian investing risky?

Yes, contrarian investing can be risky. It involves going against market consensus, which may lead to short-term losses if sentiment continues in the same direction. Success depends on accurately identifying sentiment extremes and market reversals.

Who are contrarian investors?

Some of the most popular contrarian investors include the likes of Warren Buffett, Ray Dalio, and George Soros. 

While these investors may invest in a wide variety of assets, some of their biggest investments have been against the prevailing sentiment at the time.