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In this time of financial crisis, a resonant and singular exploration of economic behaviour and its ramifications.
In this startling and unconventional book, neuroscientist and former Wall Street trader John Coates explains something we have long suspected: that we think with our body as well as our brain. This is true when we take risks at work, in sport, on the battlefield, and especially in the financial markets. Making and losing money provokes an overwhelming biological response, and this can alter the way we behave. Could this bodily turmoil lead to the kind of irrational exuberance and pessimism that so regularly destabilise the global economy?
In a series of groundbreaking experiments, Coates has shown that under the pressure of risk our biology transforms us into different people, a transformation he refers to as the hour between dog and wolf. Traders and investors are especially prone, becoming revved-up and testosterone-driven when on a winning streak, and tentative and risk-averse when cowering from losses. The Hour Between Dog and Wolf reveals the biology of bubbles and crashes; and how the presence of more women on the trading floors could help stabilise the markets.
Drawing on recent research in neuroscience and medicine, Coates looks more generally at how our bodies produce the fabled gut feelings we so often rely on; how stress in the workplace can affect our risk-taking and even damage our health; how sports science can teach us how to toughen our physiology against the ravages of stress. The Hour Between Dog and Wolf sheds new and surprising light on issues that affect us all.
Far from the preserve of cold-blooded rationalism, Wall Street is dominated by primitive drives and hormonal surges, argues this scintillating treatise on the neurobiology of the business cycle. Coates, a Cambridge neuroscientist and ex Wall Street trader whose previous studies have shown that male traders perform better when they have elevated morning testosterone levels, draws an intimate portrait of life on a trading floor, with its intuitive, rapid-fire deal making under pressure, as an almost physical athleticism directed by brain processes and chemistries evolved for less cerebral pursuits. As bond markets soar and slump, he notes, traders experience involuntary fight-or-flight reflexes, jolts of dopamine, and convulsions of the primal "gut brain." In bull markets, the euphoric boost in testosterone from successful trades fuels ever crazier risk taking until the inevitable collapse, when the defensive steroid cortisol takes over and turns financiers into risk-averse paralytics dependent on government bailout and stimulus. Coates takes economist John Maynard Keynes's idea of entrepreneurial "animal spirits" and grounds it in hard science, while introducing readers to a brain that's inseparably intertwined with a very demanding body. The result is a provocative and entertaining take on the irrational exuberance and anxiety of the modern economy.