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The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust [Hardcover]

John Coates
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 15 2012
A successful Wall Street trader turned Cambridge neuroscientist reveals the biology of financial boom and bust, showing how risk-taking transforms our body chemistry, driving us to extremes of euphoria or stressed-out depression.
 
The laws of financial boom and bust, it turns out, have a lot to do with male hormones. In a series of startling experiments, Canadian scientist Dr. John Coates identified a feedback loop between testosterone and success that dramatically lowers the fear of risk in men, especially young men; he has vividly dubbed the moment when traders transform into exuberant high flyers "the hour between dog and wolf." Similarly, intense failure leads to a rise in levels of cortisol, which dramatically lowers the appetite for risk. His book expands on his seminal research to offer lessons from the exploding new field studying the biology of risk.
 
Coates's conclusions shed light on all types of high-pressure decision-making, from the sports field to the battlefield, and leaves us with a powerful recognition: to handle risk isn't a matter of mind over body, it's a matter of mind and body working together. We all have it in us to be transformed from dog to wolf; the only question is whether we can understand the causes and the consequences.

Frequently Bought Together

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust + Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty + The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't
Price For All Three: CDN$ 59.21


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Review

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

FINALIST 2012 - Wellcome Trust Book Prize
FINALIST 2012 - Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award

“Vivid…. Vibrant.”
Nature
 
“Compelling.”
New Scientist
 
“A great book.”
Slate  
 
“If anyone is qualified to unify the seemingly disparate subjects of financial markets and neurology, it’s John Coates.... The Hour Between Dog and Wolf is well executed and makes its argument convincingly.”
The Daily Beast
 
“Stunning research.” —Forbes
 
“Absorbing.”
Bloomberg Businessweek
 
“Provocative and entertaining.”
Publishers Weekly  

“The variously debilitating or exhilarating physiology of stress and challenge is the subject of this compelling exploration of human beings in overdrive. John Coates brings finely honed scientific insight to his  insider’s look at the world of high-wire high finance to produce a vivid depiction of the minds, brains and bodies of economic movers and shakers living on the edge.”
—Gabor Maté M.D., author of When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress
 
“The picture of humans as rationale economic machines has gone down the tubes. This book looks at the biology of why Homo economicus is a myth, and no one is better positioned to write this than Coates—he is a neuroscientist AND an economist AND an ex–Wall Street trader AND a spectacular writer. A superb book.”
—Robert Sapolsky, professor of neurology and neurosciences, Stanford University

"A vivid and brilliantly written narrative: by integrating his knowledge of neuroscience with his experience as a Wall Street trader, Coates pulls back the curtain on the physiological mechanisms that prepare some individuals to thrive and others to be devastated by confronting risk. The Hour Between Dog and Wolf ensures that future models of risk taking will include the important role of the nervous system.”
—Stephen W. Porges, Director, Brain-Body Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago
 
“A terrific read—better than any amount of economic analysis because it explains what lies at the root of economic disaster—those biological drivers that cause sane and clever people to make catastrophic decisions. Every banker should be made to read it!”
—Rita Carter, author of Mapping the Mind

About the Author

John Coates is a senior research fellow at the University of Cambridge. He previously worked for Goldman Sachs and ran a trading desk for Deutsche Bank in New York. In 2004 he returned to Cambridge to research the biology of financial risk-taking. His work has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Financial Times, and has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, New Scientist, Wired and TIME. Coates has appeared on CNN, CNBC, BBC, CBS Evening News and Good Morning America. He was born and raised in Canada and now lives in England with his wife and two sons.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A. Volk #1 REVIEWER #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Coates has the rare privilege of being both a researching neuroscientist as well as a former financial trader. He thus has personal and professional insight into the topic at hand: how the human body responds to risk and what this means for financial trading. Coates applies a blend of neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and sports psychology to explain the link between body and brain amongst traders (and more broadly, people in general). The book is very interesting to read, but it tends to over-reach its evidence.

Coates' main thesis is that the body plays a significant role in our decisions. Not the brain, the body. Coates continues the trend of exploring our decision making from a non-conscious point of view (a theme in books like Blink or Fast and Slow). Only Coates moves beyond the unconscious brain to discuss how the body impacts our thinking. Largely, Coates examines how hormones related to fight or flight systems in the body change the way we behave and think. Far from the rational model of behavior dominant for so long in economics (honestly, I can't believe anyone still believes that nonsense), Coates shows how winning can prime a testosterone boost that amplifies not only traders' successes, but also their appetite for risk and hubris. Thus one gets a spiral of effective optimism that leads to hubris that leads to a spectacular crash and burn. At which point cortisol takes over and induces the opposite effect. Exaggerated withdrawal and reduced efficacy, leading to missed opportunities. Coates examines the evidence using both lab and field data, the latter collected from real London financial traders at work.

Coates is an engaging author, and uses fictional characters to illustrate each of the systems he discusses.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eureka! Jan. 30 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For all the books I have ever read about behavioral economics, psychology and trading, hoping to become a better trader ( I spent about 4 years as a pro prop trader) none of them combined comes close to this in giving me what I was looking for. And I'm not exaggerating. While most traders, or would be traders, go into the profession thinking they can beat the market if they learn more, or learn to control their emotions and discipline, Coates gets to the heart of the matter, which is...decision making behavior is principally a product of things we do not control, and more specifically, it is due to hormones. It's not that simple, or simplistic of course but Coates writes in an entertaining way that is both academically valid, completely compelling and thoroughly entertaining! Understanding how and why we act is something rarely addressed by most writers in trading psychology. Yet it is without question, the most crucial step to improvement. I can't give the book enough praise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back." -- Proverbs 29:11 (NKJV)

The financial markets are supposed to be efficient (almost perfectly reflecting the known information to set accurate valuations). Yet most stocks will oscillate plus or minus 30 percent from their daily closing average during the course of a year. Surely, the value of the company didn't shift so much in that time?

In recent years, experiments by behavioral researchers have challenged the efficient markets theory by showing that many decisions work differently than a calculating computer would. In The Hour between Dog and Wolf, John Coates (a senior research fellow in neuroscience and finance) reports on newer research into how the bodies of people making investment and trading decisions are affected by what they are doing. Drawing on his personal experience at Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, the findings are described in the context of market conditions that will seem quite familiar to experienced investors. I found the book to be fascinating. And I included a recommendation to read it in Lesson Fourteen of my next book, Excellent Solutions.

I thought that the book was weakest in postulating possible ways to dampen the harmful effects of neurology and body chemistry on investment behavior. I will welcome controlled experiments that follow up on these measurements to see how minds and bodies can be kept under more appropriate discipline in making decisions and taking actions.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating psychology of traders March 28 2013
By Charles Dimov TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:MP3 CD
John Coates writes an utterly fascinating book on how the physiology of the trader's body has a very strong influence on their psychology, decisions and actions. It is a seldom discussed, and lightly studied subject... but may have much to share with explaining the world of finance. It is scary to think about the impacts of the panic, and stress that spirals the finance community into deepening spirals in part due to their physiological issues impacting decision making.

Brilliantly written, Coates has a light style that helps make it a compelling read, rather than a dry slog.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, who is really in control Jan. 11 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book explains many of the emotions I feel both when I am at work or making investment decisions. It also helps to explain how the chemical balance can make you change over time, without even being aware of it. A fascinating read.
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