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Behaviour: Hormones may influence financial risk taking

Scientific Reports

July 2, 2015

Short-term alterations in male cortisol and testosterone levels may influence financial decision making according to a study published in Scientific Reports this week. The findings suggest that levels of these hormones in market traders predict risk-taking and price instability in experiments that resemble financial markets. However, the researchers note that it is difficult to extrapolate experimental results to real-world financial markets.

Aldo Rustichini and colleagues measured naturally occurring levels of cortisol and testosterone in 142 men and women and assessed differences in trading behaviour and price stability in an experimental asset market. They found that in men, elevated levels of cortisol were associated with higher trading activity, mispricing and overall price instability. In a second experiment, in which cortisol or testosterone were administered to young men (34 men and 41 men, respectively) before participating in the trading simulation, elevated levels of these hormones were associated with increased investments in riskier assets.

The authors suggest that cortisol may affect an individual’s willingness to take risks whereas testosterone may have altered optimism about future price changes, which could make the participants more likely to expect stock prices to increase. However, they add that further research is required to confirm these hypotheses.

doi: 10.1038/srep11206

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