September 28, 2011

Finding Existential Solace In A Pink Tied Psycho

Americanpsychoposter.jpg

unamerican

Forbes: "Stock Traders Are Psychopaths"--


... a University of St. Gallen study that shows stock market traders display similarities to certified psychopaths. The study... compares decisions made by 27 equity, derivative and forex traders in a computer simulation against an existing study of 24 psychopaths in high-security hospitals in Germany.  Not only do the traders match their counterparts, but, as Der Speigel [sic] succinctly puts it, the "stockbrokers' behavior is more reckless and manipulative than that of psychopaths."
Der Spiegel:

Using a metaphor to describe the behavior, Noll said the stockbrokers behaved as though their neighbor had the same car, "and they took after it with a baseball bat so they could look better themselves."

The researchers were unable to explain this penchant for destruction, they said.



Hold on.  The study compared institutionalized psychopaths to a group of German traders and found the traders are worse psychopaths, with a "penchant for destruction."  Umm, how about the more obvious explanation" they're German.  What?  Too soon?  Hello?  Is this thing on? 

The preposterousness of my comment is only slightly less than the overall idiocy of this study and the reporting around it. Following a rigorous objective analysis, the fact that the traders were German is a more plausible explanation for their baseball bat smashing behavior than their employment as traders.  I realize the institutionalized psychopaths were also German, but the presence of mental illness is itself a greater confounding factor, i.e. in a study of psychopathy, the general order of important factors can be approximated:

mental illness > species of pet > race > employment > favorite movie > phone number

in other words: this study is stupid, which is also a rigorous objective analysis.

But the existence of confounding factors did not stop nearly everyone from turning up the volume of their own cognitive noise:

NYMag:

With rogue traders all the rage, a Swiss university study found that brokers "behaved more egotistically..."  The study's co-author Thomas Noll said, "Naturally one can't characterize the traders as deranged..."  Particularly shocking for Noll was the fact that the bankers... Noll said it was as if the stockbrokers realize...

Of course I can't find the study anywhere, which is suspicious, but not half as suspicious as the reporting.  Are they "stock market traders" or are they stockbrokers?  Why did Forbes  include the above American Psycho poster?  Because he's a psycho?  But he's not a trader, he was an investment banker.  Do these results extend to everyone in a tie or anyone who deals with securities?  How about the baby in the Etrade ad?


etrade baby.JPGGerman


I'd say this was an example of the media manipulating the study to suit their needs, but it appears the researchers themselves were pretty liberal with the nomenclature and pretty conservative with the N=.

I'm fairly confident that a study of comparing 27 idiots to 24 other idiots done by, apparently, idiots, most likely explicitly done for the mass consumption of more idiots is not a study worth repeating, but you can be sure it will be repeated many, many more times and eventually form the foundation for future research not to mention conventional wisdom for the next 25 years.    They don't really care who or why someone is a psycho, so long as you get the hate pointed in the right general direction. 

II.

Interesting how you spin it:

Forbes:  "The study, authored by MBA students Pascal Scherrer and Thomas Noll"

HuffPo: "The research, led by forensics expert Pascal Scherrer and prison administrator Thomas Noll"

III.


Here's a happy video:




I like to watch these kinds of videos when I have to get psyched up to wrestle a crocodile or storm a castle.

Though narcissism demands the right to self-identify, narcissists are often unable to do so because they don't know what it is they want to be.  Who am I?  What are the rules of my identity? So people look for shortcuts, like modeling oneself after another existing character.  But the considerably more regressive maneuver is to define yourself in opposition to things.  "I can't tell you what I want for dinner," says the toddler, "but I am certain I don't want that.  Or that. Or that.   And if you put that slop in front of me I swear to God you will wear it."

Now you can go through life floating, letting hate, the Dark Side Of The Force, the easy path, guide your reactions.  It seems certain that you have a fully formed identity because of the magnitude of your passions, emotions, and responses, but you can only operate in response, never first, never with commitment or vision.  I know the young lady with the mace in her eyes thinks she is driven by love, but that doesn't really come through here, does it?  Her hate defines her.  "I'm anti-establishment."  We get it.

What do the protestors want?  Can they articulate it meaningfully, not in platitudes or "people over profits" or  "more fair income redistribution" soundbites?  They can't tell you because they don't know.  They can, however, yell at you what they don't like, and the louder they yell it the more they hear it themselves.

Nothing is expected to be accomplished, it is all for branding.  The enemy of the day is "Wall Street" but that's not an actual thing, and the cops they are so earnestly hoping will assault  them aren't their enemies either, they are proxies for Wall Street which is a proxy for something else that I am going to politely refrain from suggesting is their father.  This time they have a camera.   None of that matters, so long as they have successfully identified themselves to themselves, a little cover from the incessant bitter winds of existential freedom.  Marijuana will take care of the rest.


IV.

The protestors didn't realize they were themselves bit players in someone else's movie, the media's movie, which offers this clip and others like it so that you, the viewer, can easily define yourself by who you hate.  "That's what the ratings said you wanted," studio execs say,  perplexed.  "Were we wrong?"  No, no, you were right.  Carry on. 

If I hate the protestors, I'm on Wall Street's side, and vise versa, no further branding, let alone thought, is necessary.  And now you have a quick way to decide if you hate me.




[The market is] going to fall pretty hard.... Investors and the big money, the smart money... they don't buy this rescue plan.... they know the market is toast. They know the stock market is finished. The Euro, as far as they're concerned, they don't really care. They're moving their money away to safer assets like Treasury bonds, 30-year bonds, and the U.S. Dollar. So it's not going to work.


And:


For most traders, we don't really care that much how they're going to fix the economy, how they're going fix the whole situation. Our job is to make money from it...  I have a confession which is: I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession. I dream of another moment like this. Why? Because people don't seem to remember but the ['30s depression] wasn't just about a market crash. There were some people who were prepared to make money from that crash... It's an opportunity.

This is not the time for wishful thinking that the government is going to sort things out.   Governments don't rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world.


Wow! Did he really say that?

But what did he say that's so shocking, that we haven't heard a million times before?  Why is he so believable?  One lone trader?  What does he know that we don't?

America loves to believe information if it comes by an accent, the "otherness" of the speaker implies they have both impartiality and additional information, hence Nouriel Roubini.

If you're watching it it's for you, and how many of you watch the financial news of the BBC?  Zero.  And yet we have this clip, submitted for your consideration. Submitted everywhere, from the NYT to Salon, which actually titled its article: "The rogue trader: Crazier than a psychopath."   Wow, wildman, not even close.   So while the trader is an American he is the "other" speaking to a British audience which we get to spy on; and this information carries greater weight because it is delivered over there, via the BBC, not via Fox News to the evangelicals of Nebraska.

After the initial panic about what he said, the controversy morphed to whether this is a hoax, whether this guy is part of a performance art troupe that tries to impersonate and thus humiliate capitalists.  This controversy is wildly besides the point: what's the difference?  The entire theatre of this clip is a hoax.  What difference does it make if he is an actor or a real trader?  How do you think the BBC found this guy in the first place?  They don't pre-interview at the BBC?  They just wing it? 

The media has chosen the easy path because that's what you want, we want to be told that traders et al are psychopaths and cops are Wall Street heavies and white women are entitled jerks and this guy's a hoax/for real, all so that the rest of us can decide which side of that invented controversy we are on so that we remember who we think we are.   "I hate something!" says the person who is out of ideas.  About as nuanced as a mace shot to the face, which happens right in the the first episode.  You can't be subtle when the bitter winds are blowing.


------


Related:

Are conservatives psychopaths?

Protestors Get Maced











Comments

Whether the study was done ... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 11:48 AM | Posted by Derek: | Reply

Whether the study was done by "idiots" or not, this post has to be one of your worst: Wall Street is not a 'real thing' and the growing income inequality and corruption is an 'invented controversy'. The typical conservative trope-'the protestors just have empty slogans, they don't know what they want'-fails here. Maybe there are some young pups in NYC right now who can't articulate the finer points of finance economics, but that does not make their observations (and those of millions of others) simply a story the media is selling to them.

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There was evidence of our g... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 12:00 PM | Posted by Inside Job: | Reply

There was evidence of our gov. being owned by wall st., millionair/billionair, and lots of white old men in "Inside Job".

I think they are all socio paths set up to do our bidding- projection- to create drama.
All our problems could be solved or at the very least moderated to a lower volume- but Americans need DRAMA and lots of it. We also need scapegoats. I think they go hand in hand.
Goes like this "What happened?"
"Oh, I was not paying attention" "There was an eliphant in my living room AND it was drinking my booze?" "Now I have to pay for it's rehab? I'm outraged!!!"

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what I find most offensive ... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 1:01 PM | Posted by mark goodheart: | Reply

what I find most offensive is that the millennials are screaming for the state to rectify the situation.

Its as if all vestiges of self-reliance have been programmed out of this generation and replaced with extended adolescence complete with manufactured outrage (batteries not included)and "safe" ways to vent.

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"If I hate the protestors, ... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 1:08 PM | Posted by Liz: | Reply

"If I hate the protestors, I'm on Wall Street's side, and vise versa, no further branding, let alone thought, is necessary."

Isn't it possible to hate them both?

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Oh, for heaven's sake, Dere... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 1:32 PM | Posted, in reply to Derek's comment, by Liz: | Reply

Oh, for heaven's sake, Derek. There is so much wrong with your comment that it's hard to know where to start.

You want to show us some evidence that the protesters, and the millions of others, know what they're talking about? That they have something positive to say, that they aren't just screeching against those mean meanies? That they really aren't just waving empty slogans?

FYI, I find it amusing that the you seem to think that calling something a "typical conservative trope" will automatically discredit it. Nope, you're actually going to have to provide counter arguments. Shocking, I know. (And yes, before you ask, I am a conservative.)

"Maybe there are some young pups in NYC right now who can't articulate the finer points of finance economics, but that does not make their observations (and those of millions of others) simply a story the media is selling to them."

Nice strawmen, genius.

There is something a little disturbing in the trend I keep seeing in internet comments, that disparages the need for at least some economic knowledge before you start spouting off about, y'know, economic matters. It's just anti-intellectualism.

No one is claiming that you need to know about "the finer points of finance economics" before you make observations. Just that they show some basic background knowledge, and some positive suggestions, that go beyond lashing out incoherently at the status quo.

"...this post has to be one of your worst: Wall Street is not a 'real thing' and the growing income inequality and corruption is an 'invented controversy'."

Firstly, how exactly is Wall St. a "thing", ie, a single entity, as opposed to an umbrella term for many people, businesses and functions?

The problem is not, it and of itself, income inequality. Most people would rather that everyone have a good standard of living with some very rich people with more than everyone else, than to all be equally poor.

The problem is a lack of downward mobility. No one truly believes that today's elites will take their knocks and accept the consequences of their mistakes. (Look at the bailouts.) This is because of the endemic corporatism in American society, with Big Business, Big Government and Big Labor all in bed together to maintain their power.

That's the problem with the protesters. They're not articulating the problem (possibly because they don't actually understand it), they're behaving like the kinds of idiots that ordinary people want to slap, and they have nothing to offer other than screaming slogans.

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This man speaks truth.... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 1:51 PM | Posted by Invicta: | Reply

This man speaks truth.


That's all I wanted to say.

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I agree goodheart. That's ... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 2:59 PM | Posted, in reply to mark goodheart's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I agree goodheart. That's what's behind a lot of the societal sicknesses around the country. We've gone from a people with a hope that they could make a better future for ourselves. We didn't like the way things were and we tried to come up to a better way of doing things. We had two things that are gone today -- the ability to delay gratification and an internal locus of control. When you have an external locus of control, life happens TO you, you have very little say in what happens and the grown-ups (or the government) are supposed to come in and fix it like superman. In fact, our culture pretty much frowns upon those who think a problem can be fixed. If you take matters into your own hands rather than going to someone else to fix it, you are a rogue or a cowboy.

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I agree with the fact that ... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 3:17 PM | Posted by Parwathy Narayan: | Reply

I agree with the fact that the media is probably manipulating the study to suite their needs...otherwise it simply does not make sense. I don't buy it. Great blog:)

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I'd be more on board with t... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 3:28 PM | Posted by DensityDuck: | Reply

I'd be more on board with this if the cop had maced the chicks as a matter of NYPD policy, under direction of senior personnel, and the rest of the cops had been all "yeah that's RIGHT girl you just keep your MOUTH SHUT because there's PLENTY MORE where THAT came from".

What actually happened was that the rest of the cops were all "uh dude what the fuck". And the guy who went all spray-gun-Bob apparently has a history of doing things like that.

I mean, yeah, this is going to be used as a scene in a movie called "WHY YOU SHOULD HATE RICH PEOPLE". But--like "Republicans booed the gay veteran"--there's more to this than a quick description is going to tell you.

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So if I understand the prev... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 5:27 PM | Posted by EH: | Reply

So if I understand the prevailing wisdom in this thread, it would be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT if the protestors would simply say they want Louie Gohmert in jail?

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Hmmm, Another psych study t... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 6:04 PM | Posted by Donald Atkinson: | Reply

Hmmm, Another psych study that means absolutely nothing. Sure, people will take what they want from the study as usual.
I'm fatalistic about the stock market. Years ago, the head of the psychology dept. at Memphis State told me that the stock market is like a Mississippi hog farmer. He fattens the hogs for a while then it's time to take them to the market and with the profits buy some little hogs to fatten.
I'm afraid that I'm just a hog but I dont' believe that the hog slopper is really a sociopath just because s/he kills off the hogs occasionally. Other hogs want to see malice in the situation, but I figure that they just want some bacon.

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I'd be more on board wit... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 6:15 PM | Posted by Empire of Jeff: | Reply

I'd be more on board with this if the cop had maced the chicks as a matter of NYPD policy, under direction of senior personnel, and the rest of the cops had been all "yeah that's RIGHT girl you just keep your MOUTH SHUT because there's PLENTY MORE where THAT came from".

Or if he had asked, "Which would you say burns more: your hatred of capitalism, or the pint of law enforcement-strength pepper spray I just jetted into your corneas?"

People just don't take pride in their work like they used to.

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Norway, Bergen.Tha... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2011 7:54 PM | Posted by Vidar: | Reply

Norway, Bergen.

Thank you for sharing those most valuable insights. I'm grateful and believe as a long term reader in your deep sincerity. Honesty is one of the major ingredients of great literature.

Contemporary events. Alone's untold gems, about what he chooses not to tell the reader. It takes some fingerspitzengeføhln not to alienate those with the widespread cognitive dissonance/scientific illiteracy regarding free fall speed buildings. But then again, perhaps those issues aren't very important in the grander scheme of things.

Wish I had a more valuable contribution than this semi-ad.

Male, 34, intelligent but stupid, impressed by alone's prose.
Reader, join me for a cup of caffe. Come on!

vidar dot spampost at gmail dot com

(checked approx every day)

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<a href="http://www.youtube... (Below threshold)

September 29, 2011 8:46 AM | Posted by noob: | Reply

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoIvd3zzu4Y

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I'm on board with the broad... (Below threshold)

September 29, 2011 11:28 AM | Posted by John R: | Reply

I'm on board with the broader contention ("They don't really care who or why someone is a psycho, so long as you get the hate pointed in the right general direction," focusing on the abstract rather than the concrete which obviates the possibility of real solutions or good character), but this comment isn't about that. I'm an actual stock trader (as in, professionally in charge of actual money, make all the decisions and executions), so here are a few oblique comments from an "insider."

- Yes, it's pathetic that Forbes magazine can't distinguish between traders, brokers, and investment bankers. These aren't fine distinctions; they're huge, and basic.

- Based on the video I got the impression he wasn't a particularly successful trader, because his judgments just weren't "thick" enough. Fun fact: his facebook page says he's a speaker and "trainer." In this case, those who can't teach. (Not at all an insult to people who do real teaching.)

- Nonetheless, the basic mentality (barring the Chicken Little/Pollyanna dualism of "we're all screwed" and "buy US Treasuries!") is in keeping with an understanding of what an actual trader does. The body shop doesn't like that people get in wrecks, but they profit from it. This guy is arrogant and self-centered, but he's right that it's not a trader's job to "fix" things for everybody else. We don't want bad things for other people (or at least many of us don't), but we can make a bunch of money off that market crash.

- Incentives are plainly misdirected in many ways in high finance: Swing for the fences if you're young, all reward no risk, risk shifted to the system. Follow the pack if you manage a fund, by approximating others' performance you keep your clients, herd mentality shifts risk to the system. ("Wall St" is a scapegoat in a crash, but we push our brokers for unrealistic performance the rest of the time.) But this video vilifies thinking that should be incentivized: The trader is the critic questioning the consensus, and if he's right he makes lots of money. Critical thinking is exactly what you want to incentivize. You want people finding the winning horse and riding it, because that's how you shift money into the hands of people who will perform best with it.

- Obviously it's just a business pitch, but look at his conclusions: *you* can protect your assets or even make a bunch of money if you think things through and act accordingly. This is hardly the Oliver Stone caricature of some guy trying to steal grandma's pension funds through penny stocks; this is a guy offering advice. And the commentators don't at all respect this; take the blue pill and shut up, they say.

- Some good traders have the ability to predict big crashes. Jesse Livermore knew about 1907 and 1929. Paul Tudor Jones knew about 1987. Etc. We celebrate the people who are so in sync with the flow of our world that they come up with whizz-bang iPads and Nintendo games -- a fortiori, shouldn't we *lionize* those who are in sync with massive economic swings? Put the incentives in the right place.

- FYI, I'm not at all saying that this guy is right that the world economy is definitely screwed (bulls and bears both know he's an idiot), just that they are *deriding* personal initiative, shoving the blue pill down our throats. (I'm not a "red pill" fan either because a shift to the "really real" sounds like a combination of fantasy and conspiracy theory to me, but the blue pill-pushing is still wrong.)

- Is there such a thing as "Wall Street"? Obviously there exist institutions like Goldman Sachs and such, but there are traders everywhere. Great traders are not cloistered in Manhattan, and are a very diverse group because ideas translate into profits. Highly successful funds can be operated out of Peoria and Austin as readily as New York and Greenwich. Your personal financial advisor isn't a puppet in the hands of some coked-up kid with a newly-minted Harvard MBA, nor even the fat bald old white men hatching a new plot to screw you in a boardroom thick with the smoke of brandy-dipped cigars. "Wall Street" is your next door neighbor who finally gets his shot and tries to "help you out" with over-generous terms on your mortgage. (If we're going to elide brokers and trader and investment bankers, we might as well go this far.) "Wall Street" is your dad who thinks an e*trade account is his ticket to beating the market. "Wall Street" is the money you put into that 401(k).

- Insofar as there is or becomes a monolithic "Wall Street," people with the actual trader mentality are the *solution*. When things calcify, they're ready to be smashed by somebody who exercises critical thinking. Whenever "Wall Street" is *wrong*, there's an opportunity to make unbelievable amounts of money by betting against "them." Did the research and found out Enron is lying in its reports? Prepare to make a bunch of money. Not so sure that LTCM is really what it's cracked up to be? Your chance to strike it rich. Incentivize the no-blue-pill mentality, don't go HuffPo on it.

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Indeed, people (and their r... (Below threshold)

September 29, 2011 7:01 PM | Posted by nwt: | Reply

Indeed, people (and their relevant media) constantly need to feign ignorance about their awareness of present financial system's essence — "make more money for money" — so they can continue to masturbate over "revelations" like these.

Like a headline suitable for The Onion: "Folks aghast Wall Street still not for philanthropy"

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My man TLP I love your work... (Below threshold)

September 29, 2011 11:49 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

My man TLP I love your work but this time youre wrong. The flaw here is white women often are entitled and stockbrokers perhaps do exhibit asocial tendencies some even psycopathic, more so than mechanics, teachers

Truth is still relevant -- paxilpaul

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"The body shop doesn't like... (Below threshold)

September 30, 2011 2:59 PM | Posted, in reply to John R's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"The body shop doesn't like that people get in wrecks, but they profit from it. This guy is arrogant and self-centered, but he's right that it's not a trader's job to "fix" things for everybody else. We don't want bad things for other people (or at least many of us don't), but we can make a bunch of money off that market crash."

Yeah, but the body shop adds value to situation, i.e. they fix your car while making a profit. Isn't it the case that at least sometimes, even if traders don't want a crash, the way they profit from it actually makes the crash worse? Honest question, I don't know. And I'm not saying that's their job to fix things but I'm not sure the body shop is the best analogy.

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<a href="http://medicalxpre... (Below threshold) Any comments?<... (Below threshold)

September 30, 2011 4:09 PM | Posted by EH: | Reply

Any comments?

Not from you, apparently. Is it spam?