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Overcoming emotional and personality-driven investing mistakes is widely recommended but hard to achieve. One of the keys to success is recognizing that a problem exists and devising mechanisms to control or limit bad decisions.

According to a recent global survey by Barclays Wealth, a large percentage of wealthy investors not only realize their tendency to make decisions based on emotions but would welcome help in dealing with the problem.

The report, "Risk and Rules: The Role of Control in Financial Decision Making," also revealed an extensive set of control strategies that people use to limit bad decisions. The most successful at doing so happen to be the wealthiest, although there could be other factors contributing to high-wealth achievement.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the research involved what the report called "the trading paradox," said Greg Davies, who directs Barclays Wealth's work in behavioral and quantitative finance. Many wealthy investors believe they need to trade frequently to maximize investment gains. At the same time, wealthy investors were most likely to believe their overall returns suffered because they traded too much.

"Almost 50% of traders who believe you have to trade often to do well think they overdo it," the report said.

"Failures of rationality," as the report called them, were seen in four types of investment decisions:

1. Failing to see the big picture. Considering decisions in isolation and not including their impact on an entire portfolio was cited as a problem.

Consequence: Investing too much in a single asset class, industry or geographic market because you know a lot about it and are comfortable with such decisions.

2. Using a short-term decision horizon. Ignoring the appropriate goal of long-term wealth accumulation in favor of short-term returns hindered investors.

Consequence: Statistically, losses are more likely in the short run. Because people are twice as sensitive to losses as to gains -- a behavioral phenomenon known as "myopic loss aversion" -- their willingness to take short-term risks is too low and they often make the wrong investment decisions.

3. Buying high and selling low. Investors tend to do what's comfortable amid bullish or bearish market conditions.

Consequence: Buying when markets are high or selling when markets are low is a risky strategy that fails to take advantage of market opportunities. A buy-and-hold strategy is superior.

4. Trading too frequently. Multiple emotional and personality traits produce an irrational bias toward action.

Consequence: Investment costs are higher, and the frequency of other poor decisions is increased.

"This lack of control over our emotions is not an abstract problem," the Barclays study said, and "it can have tangible, detrimental effects on both investor satisfaction and performance."

Over the past two decades, the average equity investor earned 3.8% a year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) returned 9.1% annually, according to a recent Dalbar study into investor behavior.