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Breaking News: Stock Traders Are Psychopaths

As you sit around unemployed watching your dreams of retirement disappear along with your 401(k), along comes a study to remind us that stock traders tend to be psychopaths.

Well, not all stock traders. That would be far too much of a generalization. But a new University of St. Gallen study concludes stock market traders tend to have, shall we say, certain traits in common with certified psychopaths.

The researchers compared stock traders to certified psychopaths in German hospitals and found that the stock traders could be more ruthless, reckless and manipulative. According to Der Spiegel:
"Naturally one can't characterize the traders as deranged," Noll told SPIEGEL. "But for example, they behaved more egotistically and were more willing to take risks than a group of psychopaths who took the same test."

Particularly shocking for Noll was the fact that the bankers weren't aiming for higher winnings than their comparison group. Instead they were more interested in achieving a competitive advantage. Instead of taking a sober and businesslike approach to reaching the highest profit, "it was most important to the traders to get more than their opponents," Noll explained. "And they spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents."

Previous studies, however, have come to the same conclusions and so it's not exactly new news, or something like that.

I wonder how the people-as-data disconnect plays into it, though. If you spend all your time dealing with customers and their money as numbers, spreadsheets and statistics only, then maybe you're less likely to have as many reservations about screwing over Grandma Millie and jamming power up her you-know-what for $250 per megawatt hour. It's not like you're actually going to meet Grandma Millie face to face and have to answer her questions or watch her cry. And businesses everywhere are mostly computerized these days, meaning that even non-Wall Street companies face a very 21st Century challenge in maintaining the human element and seeing people as, well, people. You know, by displaying a proper compassion, empathy, human insight and sense of right and wrong.

So maybe traders aren't so much psychopaths as they are disconnected from humanity because of the nature and competitiveness of their work. Or maybe they really are worse than diagnosed psychopaths What's the right answer? I don't know, but I don't think there's going to be an app for it anytime soon.


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