The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, by John Coates

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

Written by John Coates, Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

Reason for Reading: This book was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize. 

Review
In this Wellcome Trust shortlisted book, Coates describes his research into the feedback loop between testosterone and success in the financial market. When a person has high levels of testosterone, they are prone to risk taking – which generally promotes the market; however, success raises their testosterone levels, which increases their risks and creates bubbles (like the dot-com bubble) which are unnatural and eventually pop. Loss of money leads to decreased testosterone levels and release of stress hormones – which, if sustained for long periods of time can lead to a depressed, risk-averse market. This is when the government should step in and perk up the market themselves. (You can probably guess Coates’ politics from that statement, but the book is generally apolitical.)

I found Coates’ research quite fascinating, and his writing was engaging to someone who’s interested in the topic. I, unfortunately, am not generally interested in finance and so my attention wavered a bit during the finance-heavy bits. But the book was written in an approachable way such that I (who know nothing of the matter) could understand the financial/market bits and that someone who knows very little medicine could understand the science bits. In fact, it was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize because because it makes medicine approachable to the general population. For anyone interested in how hormones/neuroscience/psychology can affect the market, this would be an excellent book to pick up. An easy and interesting read. 

8 thoughts on “The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, by John Coates

  1. I had heard of this book. On the surface it would seem that the relationship between markets and testosterone to be a little farfetched. But there is the possibility. If there is anything to it, I wonder if testosterone levels effect other big human systems.

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  2. As a scientist, my opinion is: the idea that testosterone has a powerful effect on the market is a bit farfetched…but the idea that testosterone has some small effect is quite believable. The psychological state of buyers and sellers has a lot to do with the market's reaction to a random (or uncontrollable outside) event, I'm sure you'll admit? And testosterone levels have an impact on psychological state – though it is only one variable in an almost infinite choice of variables.

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  3. Great review! You've got me really curious about this, although I agree that this would be one of many variables and hard to tease out from the others. Any thoughts on how one might do this? How do we isolate a testosterone effect vs. any other effect either hormonal or contextual? It would be interesting to see such a study.

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  4. It would be virtually impossible to tease out the effects of testosterone on the market, because it would be impossible to keep all the other variables (hormonal, immune, and outside-factors) constant while varying testosterone. 🙂 And they probably wouldn't be able to get approval to do a human study in which they injected testosterone (or a testosterone inhibitor).

    In the end, I think it's an interesting correlation, but I'm not sure what anyone could DO with information like this – other than not go to work on days that they have low testosterone? 😉

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