Evidence shows that there are correlations between liking certain bitter tastes and certain personality factors. This means we can construct an argument to show that better traders like bitter tastes, because we also know that personality factors correlate with taste preferences.
Personality as generally understood does not really exist; the belief to the contrary is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error. However, there are some stabilities in character which are or approach being diagnosable as “personality disorders.” These though are very much in the eye of the beholder in terms of whether or not they impair effectiveness. It turns out that these same personality stabilities are highly prevalent in competitive professions, so these people must be doing something right.
Data to Show Better Traders Like Bitter Tastes
Researchers found that:
Individual differences in bitter taste preferences are associated with antisocial personality traitsUniversity of Innsbruck
Bitter tastes are basically self-explanatory. Marmite and gin and tonic are two obvious examples, but tea or coffee without sugar could be others. One could also look at wine types.
The authors found robust correlations between preferences for such bitter tastes and the Dark Tetrad, which is the Dark Triad plus everyday sadism. The Dark Triad is one of the stable factors in personality. It consists of Machiavellianism, psychoticism/psychopathy, and narcissism, at levels below threshold for diagnosis as a personality disorder.University of Innsbruck
Machiavellianism could also be termed manipulativeness. It reflects how likely someone is to be devious or to manipulate others for their own benefit. Psychosis means susceptibility to delusions. Some false beliefs — especially false positive beliefs about the self — are correlated with individual success.
Some authors in the literature include psychopathic tendencies instead of psychosis. These tendencies come from a wide potential array of behaviours. Some or all of the following may be present:
- superficial charm
- pathological lying
- manipulation of others
- lack of remorse and/or guilt
- shallow affect
- lack of empathy
- failure to accept responsibility
- stimulation-seeking behaviour
- parasitic orientation
- lack of realistic life goals
- poor behavioral controls
- early childhood behaviour problems
- criminal activity
Obviously some of these are very unhelpful. But we can imagine that others could be extremely useful.
Narcissism is an extreme level of self-absorption and self-belief. This looks as though it will be really quite useful in terms of allowing people to fail repeatedly with no adverse ego consequences. One well-known example is Donald Trump. He has been in some ways very successful despite frequently and comprehensively failing. His political career has been as negative and damaging as his business career, but he doesn’t care. He may not even know.
We know that the Dark Triad –and presumably also the Dark Tetrad, since that is very similar — are heavily over-represented in certain professions. That is: investment banking, journalism and politics. All of these professions are extremely competitive and perhaps also require a certain amount of ability to exploit others. This can therefore explain why the Dark Triad would often be seen on the trading floor as well.
Conclusions: Better Traders Like Bitter Tastes!
Of course, this shows correlation rather than causation. However, since we have a plausible explanation as well as a correlation — it seems likely that being a Dark Triad person will be valuable when trading. And now, since we have observed correlations* with bitter taste preferences, there is an easy way to check!
(Disclosure: I am well-known for liking ridiculous amounts of Marmite. I don’t mind a gin and tonic either. And I wrote this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Psychology-Successful-Trading-Behavioural-Profitability/dp/1138096288/
(So that’s one more data point!)