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Personality Research articles on personality

16Dec/090

Greed, Wall Street, and the personality/character of Capitalism

A majority of the people steering the wheel of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury department have Finance, Economics, and/or Business degree backgrounds.

Here are the top personality traits of a Finance major:
(the +/- number indicates how much higher or lower the score is from the average)

Need to dominate
62% (+11.16)
Artistic
47% (-9.86)
Materialism
60% (+9.31)
Work ethic
57% (+8.44)
Orderliness
58% (+7.95)
Extravagance
43% (+7.66)
Accommodation
53% (-6.82)
Vanity
55% (+6.4)
Religious
51% (+6.32)
Narcissism
55% (+6.03)
Wealth
42% (+5.9)

top personality traits of an Economics major:

Need to dominate
59% (+8.81)
Narcissism
56% (+7.72)
Extravagance
43% (+7.39)
Accommodation
53% (-6.88)
Intellectual
59% (+6.87)
Materialism
57% (+6.54)
Artistic
50% (-6.22)
Work ethic
55% (+6.14)
Mystical
40% (-6)
Wealth
42% (+5.79)

top personality traits of a Business Administration major:

Need to dominate
59% (+8.19)
Work ethic
56% (+7.27)
Orderliness
56% (+6.64)
Religious
50% (+5.65)
Materialism
56% (+5.32)
Peter pan complex
41% (-5.01)
Artistic
52% (-4.51)
Honor
64% (+4.46)
Extravagance
40% (+4.14)

Need to Dominate, Materialism, Extravagance are on all three lists.  Narcissism and low Accommodation are on two of them (arguably the more common academic backgrounds of the more important players in Wall Street, the Fed, and the Treasury.)

But what do these traits mean?    You can read overall type profiles here, but I included a few personality items below which give you a sense of what people who score highly on  a some of the above traits are like.

On the following personality test item:

If my government gave me a million dollars and immunity, I would kill an innocent person.

These were the most significant correlations:
Accommodation      -.245
Conflict seeking    .247
Adventurous         .185
Materialism           .180

Now the average score on this item on a 0-4 inaccurate/accurate scale was quite low (fortunately) 1.01.  But higher scorers on the above traits average around 2.0 on this item.    Not very high, but really, the farther you are away from 0.0 on this item, the more seriously disturbed you are.  And people that score highly on the above personality traits are more likely to score high on this item... and a disproportionate amount of those same people run Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department.

Another item:

I have at times taken advantage of others to achieve my ends.

most significant correlations:
Accommodation    -.327
Conflict Seeking       .333
Need to Dominate   .265
Histrionic                   .256
Materialism              .234
Honor                         -.233
Vanity                         .221
Accountability        -.217
Adventurous            .201
Extravagance           .204
Humanitarian          -.176
Fiscal Acumen         -.161

Another item:

I think I deserve to have a more prestigious life than others.

most significant correlations:
Accommodation      -.277
Materialism                .269
Extravagance            .256
Need to Dominate   .249
Vanity                          .248
Histrionic                   .245
Fame Seeking            .224
Conflict Seeking       .208
Wealth                         .20
Modest                        -.175
Narcissism                 .167

Another item:

I am greedy.

most significant correlations:
Accommodation      -.41
Materialism                .38
Histrionic                    .31
Conflict Seeking        .27
Need to Dominate    .27
Vanity                           .27
Extravagance             .26
Modest                         -.24
Honor                           -.23
Fiscal Acumen          -.17
Accountability          -.17

Based on all the above information, apparently the financial industry is a haven for selfish, greedy, morally compromised materialists... who nonetheless happen to be more religious than average.

Now, some might argue that free market competition between all these greedy people might eliminate all the negative outcomes that people with these kind of characters might inflict if there was 'no' competition (i.e. their respective greedy natures would cancel each other out).   If that's true, then recent history would suggest that deregulation does not lead to freer markets.   I would guess the freest markets would inherently require regulation if for no other reason than to minimize collusion (i.e. greedy people making agreements to minimize the kind of competition which would cancel out the negative effects of greed).

In any case, the architects of the bail out all largely share the backgrounds and tendencies profiled above, so I can't imagine they would come up with any solution that would entirely fix the problem.  At best, they would want to fix the economy 'enough' to recommence making lots of money for themselves again.  Based on the current lack of any really fundamental changes, that's what appears to be happening.

The solution, maybe, would be for intelligent socially conscious people who might naturally find these fields distasteful, to pursue them in order to fix the system maybe via an academic and/or political route.

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