The psychopathic traits possessed by students who want to work in finance

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The psychopathic traits possessed by students who want to work in finance

It's something of a cliché to say that banks are full of high-functioning psychopaths. - The propensity for banks to employ the charmingly amoral was well-documented after the financial crisis. However, a new study suggests that the psychopaths who aspire to work in finance are only semi-psychopathic: they don't display the full range of symptoms, just some.

The study, which was undertaken by professors of finance at Florida International University, Curtin University of Technology, and North Carolina Central University, looked at the personality profiles of 135 students taking finance and economics courses.

The finance students were asked to complete psychopathy questionnaires and their results were compared to the population at large.

The academics looked at how the students compared for the traits of: 'self-centred impulsivitity' (acting according to impulse for personal gain), 'fearless dominance' (manipulating and dominating other people without caring what they think), 'Machiavellian egocentricity' (a lack of empathy and sense of detachment from others for the sake of achieving one's own goals), 'rebellious nonconformity' (the rejection of social conventions), 'blame externalisation' (refusing to accept that anything's your fault), 'carefree nonplanfulness' (difficulty in planning ahead and considering the consequences of one's actions), fearlessness, stress-immunity and... cold-heartedness. 

They found the finance students were less psychopathic than the population at large for some traits, but more psychopathic for others.

The psychopathic traits finance students scored significantly lower on were carefree nonplanfulness and fearlessness, suggesting people aspire to work in finance have "higher anticipatory anxiety concerning harm" than other people, and are therefore unsurprisingly also less likely to act without considering the consequences. The finance students also scored lower on blame externalization, suggesting a greater tendency to regard themselves as responsible for their actions.

However, the finance students scored higher than everyone else on various other traits. These included Machiavellian egocentricity, fearess dominance and social influence, stress immunity, and cold-heartedness - none of which sound like great things to have on your personality profile.

What's going on? The academics suggest that the kinds of psychopaths who get ahead in finance are particular types of people. Specifically, they're, "more narcissistic and ruthless but have higher anticipatory anxiety concerning harm and willingness to participate in risky activities." They're also more likely to take responsibility for their actions and to think about how they will play out in the future. 

Is this you? The study suggests that students equipped with these traits might be selecting finance courses. Alternative, it says the mere fact of studying finance might encourage this kind of thinking.

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