The behavior of rogue stock traders could be considered more reckless and manipulative than that of psychopaths, according to a new scientific study at the University of St. Gallen. (Of course, the definition of psychopath is rather complex — and you find them in the darndest places, like running huge companies — but that's another story, and one best told in Jon Ronson's terrific book The Pscyhopath Test.) In this new study, the researchers put 28 stock traders through a battery of tests and computer simulations, and compared the results with the scores of psychopaths. From Spiegel Online:
"Naturally one can't characterize the traders as deranged," (co-author Thomas) 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."