by Jeffrey Dach MD
Could the stock market boom and bust cycles be fueled by raging hormone levels? A stock trader turned neuroscientist studied this question. He actually measured testosterone levels in Wall Street traders. Higher testosterone levels correlated with higher daily trading profits. (1) Image upper left: stock trader on phone courtesy of Telegraph UK .
Measuring Cortisol, the Stress Hormone
The neuroscientist, John Coates, also measured cortisol levels in the Wall Street traders. As you know, Cortisol is the stress hormone made by the adrenal glands, and typically levels go up with increased stress. John Coates found that large trading losses would correlate with rising levels of Cortisol in the traders, usually after large trading losses pile up.
Next, Coates published his book on the same topic, entitled, ” The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust.“(2)
The book is about how we humans deal with the stresses associated with taking huge risks, and associated the changes in our body chemistry. Mr. John Coates makes the observation that euphoria and elation during a bull market “mania” is directly caused by surging hormone levels, testosterone and cortisol. Alternatively, mounting losses leads to a negative feedback loop which may impair trader functioning. Left Image: Stock Traders courtesy of Daily Mail UK.
Massive Trading Losses Leads to Negative Feedback Loop
If the Wall Street trader enters a string of losing trades, and losses mount up leading to margin calls, this produces an unconscious emotional response. The mounting losses creates a negative emotional feedback loop which clouds the trader’s rational thinking process. In addition, the negative emotions of fear and avoidance may produce actual physiologic response and illness involving the autonomic nervous system.
Physiological Response to Negative Emotional Feedback Loop
As mentioned above, hormones levels can be measured in the Wall Street traders. More difficult to measure, but just as real, is the emotional feedback loop in response to wins or losses in trading. When traders have a winning trade, this creates an emotional high and feedback loop which causes testosterone levels to go up. However, when traders suffer severe trading losses, Cortisol goes up, and this triggers a negative emotional feedback loop of fear and avoidance response. The negative emotions may be so strong that the trader will be unable to continue trading because of illness caused by a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system. The trader may experience symptoms of tachycardia, chest or abdominal pain, digestive problems, asthma etc all related to the autonomic nervous system dysfunction.
The Trading Coach
This physiological response to the negative emotional feedback loop may be so profound that the trader will be unable to function as a trader, will then quit trading and take up a different profession. To get over this negative emotional feedback loop, the trader may seek out a trading coach such as Robin Dayne who is featured in the You-Tube video below. (9) Robin specializes in this problem and how to avoid or reverse it: (see the video)
In the Video, Robin discusses:
1) How the brain stores information and transfers it into a trading action and how to stay in control.
2) Mental patterns of destruction with trading fears
3) How to condition great patterns for succeeding
4) How to know you are reaching a danger zone BEFORE it’s too late
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Links and References
Endogenous steroids and financial risk taking on a London trading floor by J. M. Coates * , † , ‡ and J. Herbert * , *Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3DY, United Kingdom;†Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1AG, United Kingdom; and §Cambridge Center for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0PY, United Kingdom
Little is known about the role of the endocrine system in financial risk taking. Here, we report the findings of a study in which we sampled, under real working conditions, endogenous steroids from a group of male traders in the City of London. We found that a trader’s morning testosterone level predicts his day’s profitability. We also found that a trader’s cortisol rises with both the variance of his trading results and the volatility of the market. Our results suggest that higher testosterone may contribute to economic return, whereas cortisol is increased by risk. Our results point to a further possibility: testosterone and cortisol are known to have cognitive and behavioral effects, so if the acutely elevated steroids we observed were to persist or increase as volatility rises, they may shift risk preferences and even affect a trader’s ability to engage in rational choice.
We found a significant relationship between testosterone and financial return and between cortisol and financial uncertainty, the latter being measured by the variance of economic return and the expected variance of the market.
17 May 2013 Book Review: The Hour between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust
Testosterone is to blame for financial market crashes, says neuroscientist
Science 13 July 12 by Olivia Solon
The truth behind testosterone: why men risk it all
Science 27 January 13 by Joao Medeiros
The results were published in a 2008 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Coates found that, on days when traders made an above-average profit, their testosterone levels went up. Most surprisingly, the testosterone levels in the morning predicted how much money the traders would make that day: high levels forecast high earnings. At the same time, the traders’ cortisol was unaffected by how much money they lost. Rather, cortisol levels were sensitive to the volatility in the market, which is a measure of risk and uncertainty.
What Traders’ Testosterone Tells Us About Markets
By Mark Buchanan 2012-06-10T22:30:22Z
An unusual study of traders’ spit may offer a taste of the future in how we understand what drives markets — and why they aren’t as stable and efficient as we might hope.
Several years ago, two neuroscientists undertook an experiment on the trading floor of a major investment bank in London. Over eight consecutive business days, at both 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., John Coates and Joe Herbert took samples of saliva from the mouths of 17 traders. With these samples, taken before and after the bulk of the day’s trading activity, they measured the rising and falling levels of a number of steroid hormones, including testosterone, adrenaline and cortisol.
Goldman-Bred Neuroscientist Tracks Testosterone Trading
By James Pressley – 2012-05-13T23:00:00Z
What Traders’ Testosterone Tells Us About Markets
By Mark Buchanan Jun 10, 2012 6:30 PM ET
Joan Coates is the author of “The Hour Between Dog and Wolf.”
“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust” is from Fourth Estate in the U.K. and will be published by Penguin Press in the U.S. in June (310 pages, 20 pounds, $27.95). To buy this book in North America, click here.
Biology and financial instability
The molecules of mayhem
Testosterone and taking risks
May 26th 2012 | From the print edition
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust. By John Coates. Fourth Estate
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. “During a severe bear market,” writes Mr Coates, “the banking and investment community may rapidly develop into a clinical population.
Qualities of a Winning Trader – Robin Dayne Published on Jul 20, 2012
This 60-minute webinar was originally presented on 07/17/12
Whether you are a new or experienced trader you know a well-managed mindset can add to your successes, and a bad mindset can mean your demise. But, the key to creating a winning mindset is putting a daily routine into place.
Over the past 20 years of coaching I have studied and documented many of these trading distinctions and patterns from some of the top traders in the business. Some are simple adjustments and others take work and repetition to install.
The goal of this presentation is to pass on some of these techniques that can be integrated in your daily routine easily. If practiced and refined they can have an enormous impact on your trading results.
We will cover:
How the brain stores information and transfers it into a trading action and how to stay in control
Mental patterns of destruction with trading fears
How to condition great patterns for succeeding
How to know you are reaching a danger zone BEFORE it’s too late
How to turn around a bad day
How to identify a mental “block” and ways to reduce its affect
and much, much more!
The session will finish with an open Q&A.
About the Presenter: For the past 20+ years Robin has studied the day-to-day behaviors of traders and was one of the first in the business to transform proven NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) techniques to fit specifically for the trading environment. NLP- simply, explores the relationships between how we think (neuro), how we communicate (linguistic) and our patterns of behavior and emotions (program).
She has earned the reputation as “The Trader’s Coach” and is known world-wide. She has been featured on CNBC-Power Lunch, ABC’s 20/20 News, The Street.com, BusinessWeek, Tradingmarkets.com, SFO Magazine and is currently a guest on TastyTrade and the CFRN internet radio shows.
What traders and Tic-Tac men mean with their hand signals
Traders on some exchange floors around the world still like to wave their hands and fingers about to strike a deal By Justin Scroggie 12:01AM BST 16 Oct 2008
2) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1057478/Wall-Street-clampdown-traders-accused-fuelling-credit-crunch.html Wall Street clampdown on the traders accused of fuelling the credit crunch By Daily Mail Reporter
UPDATED: 03:55 EST, 18 September 2008
Frantic: Dealers crowd the post that handles Morgan Stanley on Wall Street near the close of business yesterday
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