Brain Damage? good article

Discussion in 'Psychology' started by jim c, Jul 21, 2005.

  1. jim c

    jim c

    Lessons From
    The Brain-Damaged Investor

    Unusual Study Explores Links
    Between Emotion and Results;
    'Neuroeconomics' on Wall Street
    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    July 21, 2005; Page D1

    People with certain kinds of brain damage may make better investment decisions. That is the conclusion of a new study offering some compelling evidence that mixing emotion with investing can lead to bad outcomes.

    By linking brain science to investment behavior, researchers concluded that people with an impaired ability to experience emotions could actually make better financial decisions than other people under certain circumstances. The research is part of a fast-growing interdisciplinary field called "neuroeconomics" that explores the role biology plays in economic decision making, by combining insights from cognitive neuroscience, psychology and economics. The study was published last month in the journal Psychological Science, and was conducted by a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of Iowa.


    A new study shows people with brain damage that impaired their ability to experience emotions such as fear outperformed other people in an investment game.

    • The brain-damaged participants were more willing to take risks that yielded high payoffs.

    • They were less likely to react emotionally to losses.

    • They finished the game with 13% more money than other players.

    The 15 brain-damaged participants that were the focus of the study had normal IQs, and the areas of their brains responsible for logic and cognitive reasoning were intact. But they had lesions in the region of the brain that controls emotions, which inhibited their ability to experience basic feelings such as fear or anxiety. The lesions were due to a range of causes, including stroke and disease, but they impaired the participants' emotional functioning in a similar manner.

    The study suggests the participants' lack of emotional responsiveness actually gave them an advantage when they played a simple investment game. The emotionally impaired players were more willing to take gambles that had high payoffs because they lacked fear. Players with undamaged brain wiring, however, were more cautious and reactive during the game, and wound up with less money at the end.

    Some neuroscientists believe good investors may be exceptionally skilled at suppressing emotional reactions. "It's possible that people who are high-risk takers or good investors may have what you call a functional psychopathy," says Antoine Bechara, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Iowa, and a co-author of the study. "They don't react emotionally to things. Good investors can learn to control their emotions in certain ways to become like those people."

    The study demonstrates how neuroeconomics can offer insight into a question that has become a growing focus of economic inquiry: Why don't people always act in their own self-interest when they make economic decisions?

    Though the field is still in its infancy, researchers hope neuroeconomics could someday have dozens of real world applications -- like explaining how brain chemistry influences market phenomena such as bubble manias and investor panics. Wall Street executives already are paying attention to the findings, since it offers insight into what motivates investors.

    "This branch of inquiry and economic investigation is really fortifying and buttressing our understanding of investor behavior," says David Darst, chief investment strategist in the Individual Investor Group at Morgan Stanley. "It's beginning to inform our tactical decisions."

    Using sophisticated brain-imaging technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, tests and other tools, neuroeconomists peek inside people's brains to see which regions are activated when we engage in behaviors such as evaluating risks and rewards, making choices and cooperating with other people. Neuroeconomic researchers also tap into brain activity by measuring brain chemicals and exploring how damage to specific brain regions impacts economic decision making.

    Neuroeconomics grew out of a related field called behavioral economics. Behavioral economists use insights from psychology and other social sciences to explore why humans don't always behave as predictably as standard economic models suggest they should.

    In the late 1990s, when the links between psychology and neurobiology were firmly established, behavioral economists began turning to neuroscientists, in addition to psychologists, for help explaining human behavior. The idea was that if brain chemistry could explain phenomena such as depression or attention deficit disorder, it might also help explain more mundane psychological functions, such as how people reach financial decisions.

    Behavioral economists, like Princeton's Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002, began teaming up with neuroscientists, like Peter Shizgal at Concordia University in Montreal. In one study, the pair used gambling games and neuroimaging techniques to look what part of the brain is triggered when people anticipate winning money. They found that monetary rewards trigger the same brain activity as good tastes, pleasant music or addictive drugs.

    The 41 participants in the new study included people with and without brain damage, including a control group of participants with brain damage that didn't affect their emotional processing. Players were given $20 and asked to play a simple gambling game that involved 20 rounds of coin tosses. If they won a coin toss, they earned $2.50. If they lost the toss, they had to give up a dollar. They could choose not to play in any given round, in which case they kept their dollar.

    Logic indicates that the best strategy was to take the gamble in every round of the game, since the return on a win was much higher than the potential loss, and the risk in each round was 50-50. The players with emotion-related brain damage took a more logical strategy, investing in 84% of rounds, while the nonbrain-damaged players invested in just 58% of the rounds. Emotionally impaired participants outperformed the nonbrain-damaged participants, winding up with an average of $25.70 versus $22.80 at the end of the game.

    The researchers believe fear had a lot to do with the poor performance of nonbrain-damaged participants. "If you just observe these people, they know the right thing to do is invest in every single round," says Baba Shiv, an associate professor of marketing at the Stanford business school and a co-author of the study. "But when they actually get into the game, they start reacting to the outcomes of the previous rounds."

    Yet emotions may play a useful role in financial decision making. While the brain-damaged players did well in the specific game in the study, they didn't generally perform well when it came to making financial decisions in the real world. Three of four of the brain-damaged players had experienced personal bankruptcy. Their inability to experience fear led to risk-seeking behavior, and their lack of emotional judgment sometimes led them to get tangled up with people who took advantage of them. Their life experience suggests emotions can play an important role in protecting our interests, even if they sometimes interfere with rational decision making.

    Humans developed this fear response as a survival mechanism to protect against predators. But in a world where predators aren't lurking around every corner, this fear system can be over-sensitive, reacting to dangers that don't actually exist and pushing us toward illogical choices.

    "There was no such thing as stock in the Pleistocene era," says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, and a co-author of the study. "But human beings are pathologically risk averse. A lot of the mechanisms that drive our emotions aren't really that well adapted to modern life.
  2. very interesting.
  3. Defining fade or to not fade....
  4. I have always thought that for being profitable you need to be "special".....ADHD or someting that makes you different (not better...... just something that make you think differently from masses)
  5. that's it.

    next time I open a British pound trade, I'm hitting myself over the head with a sledgehammer.
  6. naz9403


    don't trade the pound

    Reading livermore, you see how he was so emotionally detached from his life.

    He cheated on his wife many times and his rationale was, i'll enjoy them while they are here. Meaning he will keep doing what hes doing and if they stay, great, if not he'd miss them but he wouldn't get to bent out of shape.

    Being emotionally detached may make you a better trader, obviously studying the markets is a must. But equal experience between a detached and "normal" person, the upper hand goes to the detached person.

    1. Be a good speculator and not that great of a family man
    2. Be a great family man but never make the millions.

    In family man i mean, emotionally engaged in everything.

    Thats the way i see it.

    If you can do both you truly are .00001% of the population.
  7. Most people can be both. Each setting has its own perspective. I think it is much like cussing while with buddies, but you are a Ned Flanders while at home. It is doable without being a psycho or losing your family/business.
  8. mhashe


    Most people fail to make it big at trading because they don't have that emotional detachment where they'd sell their own mothers for a $. I think only Gordon Gekko types without a conscience and an insatiable appetite for money are the ones who make it in a big way in trading.
  9. Yes and no. Yes, having less emotional attachment can make you more rational and patient while taking calculated risk rather than joyride or blind risk.

    But I do NOT think Livermore was that type of trader. He was TOTALLY EMOTIONAL! He BLEW UP like 2 or 3 times! Blowups are usually a result of overemotions. Not detachment.

    Yes, at certain points in his trading career, he was detached and made hundreds of millions. But at other times he lost it all due to overtrading.

    So, Livermore is a bad example of a detached trader. I think Ed Seyoka is a better example. And most quant traders or system traders use no emotions at all( if they are fully automated type).

    And if Livermore was fully detached he would have shot himself in the head. Depression is a sign of SERIOUS EMOTIONAL issues not lack thereof.

    Anyhow, it's possible to have both. Look at Warren Buffett. Peter Lynch. George Soros,etc. None of these guys were or are players like you describe Livermore. It's all a function of personality not trading ability/success/wealth.