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2014-10-10 17:09   类别:语法   来源:   责编:Simple

The molecules of mayhem: Biology and financial instability


The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust. By John Coates.

狗和狼之间的那一刻:冒险、 直觉和繁荣与萧条的生物学。由约翰·科茨。

The financial crisis was caused by many things: greedy bankers, a glut of Chinese savings,shoddy regulation, an obsession with home ownership—take your pick. John Coates, once a trader on Wall Street and now a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, presents yet another culprit: biology, or, more precisely, the physiology of risk-taking. Financial traders, he says, are influenced by what is going on in their bodies as well as in the markets. Two steroid hormones—testosterone and cortisol—come out in force during the excesses of bull and bear markets.

导致金融危机的因素有好几个:贪婪的银行家、 中国的大笔储蓄、 具误导性的监管制度、 对拥屋的痴迷— — 任你挑选。约翰·科茨曾是华尔街的交易员,如今身为剑桥大学神经科学家的他,认为另有生物学因素在作祟,确切来说是冒险生理机能。他认为金融交易员会受到生理情况以及市场局势影响,强劲的牛市和熊市出现时, 两类固醇激素,就是睾酮和皮质醇会剧增。

Testosterone, “the molecule of irrational exuberance”, is released into the body during moments of competition, risk-taking and triumph. In animals this leads to something called the “winner effect”. A male that wins one battle goes into the next one primed with higher levels of testosterone, helping him to win again. Eventually, though, confidence becomes cockiness. The animal starts more fights and experiences higher rates of mortality.


Mr Coates thinks the exuberance that turns a market rally into a bubble may be fuelled by the same chemical. Some of this is based on traders he knew who became ever more convinced of their own invincibility during the dotcom era. But he also offers harder evidence. In one experiment Mr Coates sampled testosterone levels in traders in London and found that higher levels of the hormone in the morning correlated with beefier profits in the afternoon. Such profits came from taking higher risks, not greater skill.

科茨先生认为这是推动股市升温成泡沫现象的“化学能量”。部分结论来自他所认识的交易员。 处在互联网世代的这些交易员更加坚信自己是无敌的。此外,他也提供了比较确凿的证据。在一次实验中,科茨先生对伦敦交易员做了睾酮量的抽样调查。他发现早晨中偏高的激素量与午后的高利润有着相互关联。 这种利润来自更高的风险承担,而不是更好的技巧。

Biology may also be responsible for worsening market sentiment in bad times. The body’sresponse to prolonged periods of stress is to secrete increasing amounts of cortisol, ahormone that marshals resources to cope with crises. Sure enough, Mr Coates finds that cortisol levels in traders’ bodies fluctuate in line with market volatility, even displaying a strikingcorrelation with the prices of derivatives.


A burst of chemicals can be helpful. Good traders seem to produce a lot of hormones, but only for short periods of time. The trouble comes when cortisol remains in the body for extendedperiods. Rational analysis becomes harder, allowing emotional responses to gain the upper hand; risk aversion grows as testosterone production is suppressed. “During a severe bear market,” writes Mr Coates, “the banking and investment community may rapidly develop into aclinical population.”


One answer, he thinks, is to change the chemical make-up of trading floors by hiring more older men and, especially, women. Their bodies release far less testosterone. Women have the same levels of cortisol as men, but their stress response is triggered less by competitive failures and more by problems in their personal lives. That may make them more resilient when the markets turn against them.


Mr Coates’s thesis is not entirely convincing. The experimental data are too scarce and thedistinction he draws between the masculine world of risk-taking traders and the more feminised world of asset managers skips over the fact that many supposedly cautious, long-term investors made poor bets in the boom. But it makes intuitive sense that biological responses inform the mood of the markets. This book puts flesh on that idea.


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