New Study – Traders are worse than Psychopaths

Bruce Krasting's picture

The University in St. Gallen, Switzerland (how appropriate) has come out with a study that compares traders with psychopaths. The surprising result was that not only do traders act like psychos, they’re worse. I’m not surprised at this at all. From NZZ:

The study reviewed the direct comparison of results with an existing study of 24 psychopaths in German high-security hospitals and a control group of 27 "normal" people.

The “normal people” that is referred to are 27 traders. Stock guys, FX/commodities traders and derivative types were the “normal' people that were stacked up against the actual crazies in the German nut house. 

Even the experts were surprised by the result. They attest to the stock market professionals with a penchant for immense destruction.

The performance of the 27 dealers is even worse than the psychopaths.
"It's like beating one of the neighbor’s expensive cars with a baseball bat with the sole objective of owning the most beautiful car in the neighborhood."

Now that we “know” (what was has been suspected all along) that traders are nuts it’s worth looking at what a textbook definition of a psycho actually is.

1. Considerable superficial charm, verbal facility and average or above average intelligence.

2. Unreliability, disregard for obligations, no sense of responsibility.

3. Untruthfulness and insincerity.

4. Inexplicable impulsiveness.

5. Antisocial behavior.

6. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.

7. Total self-centeredness.

8. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.

9. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do.

10. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking--vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks.

11. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.

There was a point in my life where I thought of myself as a successful trader. A “Master of the Universe”; a “Big swinging dick”. That was 20 years ago. Looking at the above list makes me cringe. To one degree or another all the descriptions fit parts of my life at the time.

I’m “All better” now…….


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walcott's picture

That pretty much describes the entire human race presently. 

When any being is put in survival mode. Well.....

Obviously the "NWO" and the "We are The World Bullshit"

is doing the exact oposite of what the social (fascist) engineers

envisioned. They're creating a civilization ripe with their own

manifestations evil. That is now dripping and ripping through every

creavace of humanity. When the government is Nazi so goes

the population.


Element's picture

Bruce, many years ago I came to the realization/view that ALL humans are 'psychopaths', along the lines of that definition, and the really dangerous ones are the ones that can hide it, almost completely, even from themselves, and can convincingly pretend they aren't just like the rest - but worse.

Search your heart padawan ... deep down ... you know this is true.

Do we have the guts to face this and learn?

No, not if we just pretend that 'psychopaths' are different and evil ... no they are just like the rest of us ... only their lack of restraint and inhibiting show through more clearly in their attitudes and actions.

geekgrrl's picture

I've read various studies like this, and the book I mentioned upthread, 'The Authoritarians,' that explores the psychology of social dominators and their accomplices (

But for a change I'll play the devil's advocate.

In the history of psychology and psychiatry, there was a major shift that happened in the late 60s/ early 70s. Before then, there were crazy people (obviously) - but nobody had any difficulty identifying them and they were just institutionalized (whether they liked it or not). But then R.D. Laing comes along, and he starts doing all this group therapy on a group of inpatient schizophrenics who were initially more or less catatonic. After around a year or so of work, many of the folks were well enough to go home, and they did. Yet they quickly developed schizophrenia again and many were institutionalized again.

This turned the idea that pathology was located only in individuals on its head, instead suggesting that family dynamics were just as important. The problem couldn't always be isolated to the individual, and this was an existential problem attacking the very foundational premise of psychology which claimed (and still does) that only individuals can be crazy, not groups of people, institutions, governments, or for that matter, the ecosystem. To deal with this failure, psychologists got into the act and started using questionnaires and statistics to divide us into a range of categories; some of these they then pathologized as mental illness. This history is told in the three-part documentary The Trap, that every ZHer should see, available at

It may be true that traders and politicians really are the worst among us, and the most destructive towards us, our markets, society, and ecosystem. But if these people are analogous to cancer cells of the society, then it seems to beg the question: where is the immune system?

darkstar7646's picture

Look at that BBC interview that got people all agog, and you have one trader who might show you why this paradigm actually is accurate!

chindit13's picture

If one needs any additional proof that ZH is frequented by a lot of non-trader bubble-head loons and conspiracy freaks, not to mention psychopaths, take a gander at the lengthy and frothy discussion of the "obvious Illuminati hand" in the YouTube video of the BBC interview.  Folks are in a tizzy,  have "proved" conspiracy, and seek immediate public beheadings of those responsible for the fact that the YouTube ticker is not immediately updating views of the video.  Heaven forbid someone should wait to jump to conclusions until he has time to learn how YouTube runs its tickers (initially delayed).  It's death first, facts later.  Apparently the lack of an immediately updated ticker on one of millions of videos on YouTube is the greatest problem facing the seven billion inhabitants of planet Earth, at least today.

The same article carries an abundance of comments discussing the relative merits of different type baseball bats for whomping skulls, making human pinatas, or slicing skin open with a broken off car antenna.  Of course the usual gun and ammo discussion also makes its ubiquitous appearance.

If these folks represent the citizens of our post-collapse Brave New World, I think anti-social is the way to go.  I also am developing a lot of cognitive dissonance considering the banksta-Illuminati-TPTB status quo, or the post-collapse conspiratorialist paranoid gun-loving anti-Joo moonbats.  Maybe the devil I know....

saiybat's picture

Don't let the nuts dishearten you or have you confused because they represent antiestablishment. There is a conspiracy and it is that politicians and corporate leaders do not have the best interests of the people in mind. There are non elected private organizations that decide legislation, policy shifts, and economic integration.


The most important thing is there is no solution to this. It has always has been and always will be; that a few rule the many. Revolution won't change a thing except probably make the situation worse for the average person. Revolution will just means the masses trade one ideology for another on the assumption that the new ideology will improve their life. There will never be an enlightening because people are born to follow. The best you can do is not be a fool and take responsibility for yourself and not get involved in the political circus. You're dealing with people that are above ideology. It's all about money and power and ultimately the end justifies the means. Corruption can't be killed.

mcguire's picture

this battle started in the garden of eden, where the promise was made that 'you shall be as gods'.. and under the inspiration of the fallen angel, came the type of babylon, and with it, the accouterments of the god-man system of social organization.  those in power jealously guard its secrets.. this is in opposition to the Christ, who took the prerogative of self-deification away. instead, the entire system was to be run on selfless love.  it for this despicable notion that they so hated the Christ, and promply killed him.  since, we have seen only permutations of the hegeleian dialectic, sometimes thinly veiled, sometimes obvious, showing that the priest class is still in power, still decides who the revolunaries are and if they will succeed and to what purpose..  Corruption /can/ be killed in the kingdom of God.  in Him all things are possible.  but it will not be by revolution.. for the things of this world are passing away.  the only meaningful change is made when one WAKES UP to the great controversy that surrounds them, and chooses to be on the side of God, rather than the side of the Deceiver.  


saiybat's picture

I'd like to see this same study on politicians and bureaucrats

TheLooza's picture

The source of these traits are the prep schools these jack offs all attended.  Choate, Andover, Exeter. No loving parents to offer guidance, just some lord of the flies shit.

xtop23's picture

I am Jack's unexpected self portrait

steveo's picture

I am Dutch....hey now! by the way I am a prick. But a well liked prick! 
It is not my goal to be "well liked" but sheesh....510/742 thats 68%, THATS a a FIBONACCI NUMBER! number.html

honestann's picture

I tend to dislike the trader mindset too, but somebody needs to distinguish between taking advantage of destruction caused by others... versus... causing the destruction yourself.

A trader takes advantage of destruction caused by government and central banks, primarily, and sometimes weather and other facts of reality.  An analogy might be someone who cooks some hot dogs and marshmallows over the red-hot smoldering ruins of his neighbors home that just burned down.  That might piss people off and seem rather heartless perhaps, but in fact he did not cause the destruction, and is at least getting some value out of the combustion that otherwise would be wasted.

A psychopath/sociopath causes destruction.  He is the source of destruction.  To eliminate him is to eliminate the destruction (eliminate the government, central banks and non-productive/manipulator corporations and most destruction ends).  The trader would be reduced to waiting for lightning strikes to cook his hot dogs, which remains relatively harmless.

tgatliff's picture

The vast majority of trading exists because of cheap money.  Set interest rates at 10% and lets see how many traders exist.

honestann's picture

True.  And interest rates should probably be at 15%.

End the federal reserve and federal government.

Loose Caboose's picture

Sociopaths and Psychopaths cannot be reformed, redeemed or cured.  It's not like a mental illness that can be treated.  Therapy won't be effective because you need insight to respond to therapy. 

If you are hard-wired for psychopathology, you will forever be in that category.  The only thing you might achieve is learning to blend in better and be less obvious that you are essentially an empty vessel with absolutely no ability to connect with another human being on an honest emotional level.

I would also suspect that a true sociopath or psychopath would not have the insight to identify themselves as such.  The level they operate on is too superficial to understand how they are warped.  Again, that would take insight. 

RoRoTrader's picture

Lots of posts to cover, Mr BK.

So, what do you think?.......long or short from here out? (1165 S&P) it crash or rally, and open season on bears?

Tough questions for a tough mind.

I am leaning on the double think proposition, which is higher.(caveate being i am a trader so therefore also a price slut and looking to trade price up or down as long as i am on the right side of price fuck the others with no real understanding of religion, politics, morality or precision to think and learn to live with one's own judgements - all right, that was too much but i liked it - and not so bad for a call as the S&P hit 1195 today before slipping on the Greeece again at 2:30EST)

However it works out, kudos and thanks for your GREAT Reporting and INSIGHTS.

mayhem_korner's picture

BTW, a tangentially-related point that I've heard about.

If you are a prepper in any sense and are looking for marketable goods, double up on any SSRI and anti-panic prescriptions you can (you know, the ones your family members use).

Nothing like a palmful of xanax to buy off some psychotic zombies.  Just sayin'...

Ponzi Unit's picture

This video cleverly compares the corporation to the characteristics of sociopathic behavior.

Bob's picture

The movie really fills out the picture well:

Much better than Inside Job

HITMAN56's picture

Great job Bruce...perhaps add....(for traders) NEVER SLEEP, DREAM ABOUT SCREENS and CHARTS, HAS an OPINION on EVERYTHING

batz's picture


"Sociopath", "narccisist", and "psychopath" are just the words losers use to describe the people who beat them.

Yes, sweetie, the reason you lost isn't because you are over-reaching, weak, undisciplined or stupid, but because the guy who beat you is so completely deranged that we had to invent a medical condition to describe it.

Talk about fucking delusional.



batz's picture


"Sociopath", "narccisist", and "psychopath" are just the words losers use to describe the people who beat them.

Yes, sweetie, the reason you lost isn't because you are over-reaching, weak, undisciplined or stupid, but because the guy who beat you is so completely deranged that we had to invent a medical condition to describe it.

Talk about fucking delusional.



wang's picture
wang (not verified) batz Sep 26, 2011 7:46 PM

exactly batz

the elusive 'theory of everything' finally revealed


chump666's picture

jeez i make this coming trade, i am 100% buying that $$$ bottle of Tequila...

chump666's picture

sorry i only drink the good sh*t.

AdahPrice's picture

I can't read German.

kaiserhoff's picture

It's easy.  Just remember that the verb always trails, and probably isn't important anyway.  Substitute V's for W's and vice-versa.  When in doubt, add a "T" a ch, or anything harsh sounding.


Auchtung! Das machine control ist nicht for der finger-poken unt mitten grabbin.  Odervise is easy blown-up der vole fucking vorld mit spitzen sparkin!

ebworthen's picture

I'd like to shoe-horn in most of the politicians and bankers as sociopaths too.

Cream rises to the top, but so do unhealthy bowel movements.

IQ 145's picture

I resemble that comparison. I'm definetely not any worse than a psychopath. Some of my best friends are psychopaths. What is it with all the anti-psycopath whinning?

DeadFred's picture

9. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do.

equity_momo's picture

What a load of rubbish - i have zero charm and have only once ever puked in the punch bowl at a wedding due to drunkedness (after boning one of the Bridesmaids but i forget her name)


Now less about the market and more about me , , , bitchez. Great article though Bruce,.

onlooker's picture


Bruce---- I have always read your posts and find in the majority they ring accurate. Not to put this into the category of fan mail, but I appreciate your efforts at improving and educating and sharing.

However, I seriously doubt that you are a sociopath, nor are you a reformed sociopath.

Education of the populace in sociopathy is  good and we need more of it.

But, you called this one wrong.

Delete and give us some more good stuff and keep trying. No one is 100%, but your 99% is good enough for us.

Ponzi Unit's picture

To the trader, everything is filtered through the lens of how it affects positions. The Comex trading floor rendered me so callous that when told of the Challenger disaster (1986), all I had to say was "The news boys will have a field day with this." That may be psycho, or it may be a learned adaptive response. Okay, I'm a psycho, now where is that scope and my autumn Gillie suit...

DeeDeeTwo's picture

Please speak for yourself, Bruce.

Transformer's picture

I think Bruce may have been speaking a little tongue in cheek about himself.  One characteristic, not on his list, is that a psychopath would never identify himself from the list of characteristics.  If you read this list and can find yourself doing that stuff, well you probably aint.   We all can find these characteristics in ourselves, in some things we've done, at various times in our lives.  The thing about the real psycho is these characteristics are dominant.  Read some studies, just google, and you will be flabbergasted at the actions of out and out criminal psychos.

geekgrrl's picture

Good point. I see almost all of them in me at some point in time.

On a related note, I really like Robert Altemeyer's book The Authoritarians, because 1) it's online and free, and 2) because he does a very good job describing how they do these sorts of studies, and what he came to learn about the people who run the world. Usually the shrinks like to make a big fuss about mental illness among the lower classes, but strangely enough, not many have studied the psychology of people who want to dominate others, what he calls Social Dominators and their Right Wing Authoritarian accomplices. Kind of like Montgomery Burns and Smithers from the Simpsons. I think folks here would get a much better idea of the psychology of the banker/politician/fascist/demagogue pig if they read his book. He's received 300,000 hits, so somebody is reading it.

Oquities's picture

anonymous co-dependent sycophantic mother fucker!

wang's picture
wang (not verified) Sep 26, 2011 4:10 PM

another resource (from the web archive - slow to load but worth the read)

The Psychopathy Checklist - Revised (PCL-R) Hare, 1991

Lazlo Toth's picture

Um. Whats your point?


emunah73's picture

I think that point is that finally I got it. I understood why I feel some sense of pleasure when I think that the Ponzi is going to blow out. Because I always had this gut feeling about those sociopaths - they, their insane greed coupled with absolute lack of conscience created this mess. And I want this mess to dissapear. To smear the value of their creations on their smug faces. Yes, normal healthy people will suffer, but normal healthy people are able to build relationships with their families, neighbors, build communities and help each other in tough times. Sociopaths of this kind instead of sitting at their computers and playing someone important will have to kill and steal - and since they're pampered wimpy pussies they will be eaten alive.

Transformer's picture

Listen, what we are talking about here is the flaw of mankind.  It's the psychopaths that make planet earth what it is.  When man rises above the level of  hunter gatherer, when we move into agriculture and larger societies, then the psychopath becomes the major flaw in the ointment.  Hunter gatherer cultures weed out these dna freaks at a young age, and they either get destroyed or are never allowed into power.  Only in the larger group, bigger than the 50-70 persons of the hunter gatherer tribe, can the psychopath survive and dominate.

ThisIsBob's picture

Yea? Well up yours.

St. Deluise's picture

sounds like your average ZH commentor

except for #1

Dyler Turden II Esq's picture

Here is a better list of psychopathic traits, from Cleckly book  -- Mask Of Sanity -- online here:

In the full text is a complete, detailed description of each item...

1. Glib and superficial charm
2. Grandiose self-worth
3. Need for stimulation or proneness to boredom
4. Pathological lying
5. Conning and manipulativeness
6. Lack of remorse or guilt
7. Shallow affect
8. Callousness and lack of empathy
9. Parasitic lifestyle
10. Poor behavioral controls
11. Promiscuous sexual behavior
12. Early behavior problems
13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals
14. Impulsivity
15. Irresponsibility
16. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
17. Many short-term marital relationships
18. Juvenile delinquency
19. Revocation of conditional release
20. Criminal versatility


Much more on psychopathy and ponerology (the study of evil) is here:

Nate H's picture

what if you have 17 out of 20 but the 3 you dont have you are totally opposite? 

DeadFred's picture

(17-3)/20= A 70% psycho. Congrats

vast-dom's picture

hookers perform HONEST FAIR transaction and cocaine is a helluva drug, bitch. add that to sociopaths and you get a perversion of the honesty and exponential ugliness with da blow. powder keg kaboom slop slop drool drool slothrop............