Volume 2, Issue 2 (2012) Sparking Dialogue

Defining a Spark

At Catalyst, scholarly innovation is an ever-present goal. We acknowledge that the academic publication process has long been criticized for its inability to keep pace with the dynamic reality of social life. Whereas the peer-review process does take time and should not in our view be compromised, the established notion that research should be published exclusively in issues composed of multiple manuscripts is far less sacred.

Delaying publication until an entire issue can be assembled is in many ways a remnant of a world in which research could travel only as fast as the post. As a measure of cost-effectiveness, it is not applicable in the globalized world of online, open-access research in which Catalyst resides.

Whereas a well organized and artfully crafted issue can be greater than the sum of its parts and increase readership overall, a great advantage to our online format is that we do not have to choose between taking the time to craft an entire issue or publishing an individual piece of immediately relavent research. Thus, in addition to our regular issues, Catalyst now publishes individual articles related to the present social moment, or "Sparks."

In the wake of last month's trial and conviction of Kweku Adoboli, an investment banker who admitted to unauthorized trading that cost his employer $2.3 billion, as we careen toward the prospect of next month's "fiscal cliff," this first Spark is a comparison through experimental design of professional bank traders and individuals diagnosed with a psychopathic disorder.

Please help us in sparking dialogue by posting your comments and reactions on the article page, and be on the look out for a related, forthcoming essay on the theoretical implications of the research results.



A Comparison of Professional Traders and Psychopaths in a Simulated Non-Zero Sum Game
Thomas Noll JD, MD; Jérôme Endrass PPD; Pascal Scherrer; Astrid Rossegger PPD; Frank Urbaniok PPD; and Andreas Mokros


Editor in Chief
Landon Bevier
Kathy Evans
Rachael E. Gabriel
Taylor Krcek
Jessica Lester
Shane Willson

A Comparison of Professional Traders and Psychopaths in a Simulated Non-Zero Sum Game

In a prior study psychopathic individuals showed a diminished level of cooperativeness but realized higher individual rewards in a prisoner’s dilemma game, compared with community controls. The present study replicated this finding with professional bank traders, who exhibited less cooperative behavior than both of the aforementioned groups (community controls and psychopathic patients). While the bank traders did not obtain a higher gain than the psychopathic individuals at an absolute level, they maximized the discrepancy between their own profit and the yield of their anonymous computerized gaming partner. The bank traders were more prone than psychopathic patients to rely on strategies that considerably harmed the profit of their gaming partners without necessarily optimizing their own total profit. The community controls achieved the same overall gain as traders and psychopaths. Unlike traders and psychopathic patients, the normal controls balanced overall gains of themselves and their game opponent, which led to the highest overall profit, whereas the traders achieved the lowest overall profit.