Who’s More Reckless: Stockbrokers or Psychopaths?
Study at a Swiss University offers surprising results
By Marlene Satter
Excerpted from an article in AdvisorOne.com. September 30, 2011
Der Spiegel, the popular German weekly magazine, reported that a new study at the Swiss research University of St. Gallen found that stockbrokers’ behavior tops that of psychopaths when it comes to manipulation and recklessness. Psychopaths exhibit, among other characteristics, charm, dishonesty, callousness and a fondness for irresponsible behavior, according to a Scientific American article about the personality disorder… They also feel little, if any, guilt and tend to blame others for what they have done.
The Swiss study’s co-authors, forensic expert Pascal Scherrer and Thomas Noll, a lead administrator at the Pöschwies prison north of Zurich, compared the behavior of some 28 professional traders who took part in computer simulations and intelligence tests with the behavior of psychopaths who took the same test. Among the personality traits studied in the research were willingness to cooperate and egotism. The findings were quite remarkable.
Not only did traders outscore psychopaths in willingness to take chances, they were surprisingly eager to harm their opponents in the quest to come out on top. Noll said in the report, “Naturally one can’t characterize the traders as deranged. But for example, they behaved more egotistically and were more willing to take risks than a group of psychopaths who took the same test.” He added that, instead of simply pursuing the greatest gain possible, “it was most important to the traders to get more than their opponents. And they spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents.”
Noll compared their behavior to people whose neighbors might have the same car, “and they took after it with a baseball bat so they could look better themselves.” Neither he nor Scherrer were able to explain why they were so willing to cause damage in their quest to get ahead.
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