September 28, 2011

Finding Existential Solace In A Pink Tied Psycho



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:


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. 


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"


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.


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.


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.



Are conservatives psychopaths?

Protestors Get Maced