It has been observed that psychopaths will accept positive expected values past some sort of notion of risk aversion by non-psychopaths.

Are there any observations of psychopaths' responses to negative expected values? The quoted study's only valid if it shows that psychopaths respond properly to expected losses.

Shiv, B., Loewenstein, G., Bechara, A., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. R. (2005). Investment behavior and the negative side of emotion. Psychological Science, 16(6), 435-439.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Jeff No. That one's asking about whether psychopaths adhere to the Kelly Criterion, assuming that they prefer positive expected values. Kelly places logical limits on gambles vs risk, payoff, & "bankroll". This one questions whether just because they accept positive expected values down to nothing, they may just love to gamble. $\endgroup$ – user2475 Dec 8 '12 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ interesting thought. i think that is actually the point of the study though-not to show that these patients "prefer" positive gambles, but to show that their deficit can be advantageous in the right context. bechara has shown in the iowa gambling task that emotion lesion patients end up choosing the decks with negative EV. but as you suggest, it would be interesting to see if these patients, e.g., are more likely to play the lottery (with negative expected value) as well. since these patients had prefrontal damage, and thus problems with inhibition, i suspect they would. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Dec 8 '12 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeff Totally, but I'm wondering if they're as perfectly selfish as they're "defined" to be. The lotto's a potentially dangerous example since it becomes a positive expected value every 5 years. Kelly would prevent a psychopath from lottoing though. Wait, are psychopaths now limited to prefrontally damaged? $\endgroup$ – user2475 Dec 8 '12 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ what do you mean by becomes a positive expected value every 5 years? maybe you'll win every 5 years, but the expected value remains negative, always. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Dec 8 '12 at 3:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ not sure how psychopaths are clinically defined, but bechara's studies are not about diagnosed psychopaths--they are about patients with lesions to emotion-related areas $\endgroup$ – Jeff Dec 8 '12 at 3:05

I do not normally respond negatively about a cited study. This study you have cited is rather glib and very flawed. It could be a better evaluation of a person's mathematical ability as opposed to:

Fear seemed to play a large role in risk-avoidance behavior of the normal participants.

The other flaw in this study, is to even attempt to correlate giving subjects the money (as it is no personal loss) and using a rather trivial amount, $20.

Any person with a basic understanding of mathematics, would know that the odds were in favor to betting each time. This cannot be compared to real life risk aversion, where there are unknown risks associated with return, and the financial investment is far greater (as it is coming from the individual's pocket).

My views are supported by the following study In fact the results could be accounted by this study Mathematical-Verbal Ability Differentials and Somatic Expressions of Situational Anxiety.

Are there any observations of psychopaths' responses to negative expected values?

The following study would demonstrate that on an emotional level, a person with clinical psychopathy would have no response to negative expected values, but the cognitive (purely intellectual) awareness of negative expected values would be intact. This could play out in many ways given the circumstances, as life itself is never so clear cut.

Suffice to say, if it involves the fear of harming another of self harm, this would not be consideration for average psychopath.

CONTEXT: Psychopaths belong to a larger group of persons with antisocial personality disorder and are characterized by an inability to have emotional involvement and by the repeated violation of the rights of others. It was hypothesized that this behavior might be the consequence of deficient fear conditioning.

OBJECTIVE: To study the cerebral, peripheral, and subjective correlates of fear conditioning in criminal psychopaths and healthy control subjects.

RESULTS: The healthy controls showed enhanced differential activation in the limbic-prefrontal circuit (amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, and anterior cingulate) during the acquisition of fear and successful verbal and autonomic conditioning. The psychopaths displayed no significant activity in this circuit and failed to show conditioned skin conductance and emotional valence ratings, although contingency and arousal ratings were normal.

CONCLUSION: This dissociation of emotional and cognitive processing may be the neural basis of the lack of anticipation of aversive events in criminal psychopaths.

Deficient fear conditioning in psychopathy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.

I do not see how you have made the following deduction:
The quoted study's only valid if it shows that psychopaths respond properly to expected losses.

Mathematical-Verbal Ability Differentials and Somatic Expressions of Situational Anxiety
Robert L. Milliken and Bernard Spilka
The Journal of Experimental Education
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Sep., 1962), pp. 3-26
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20156598

Deficient fear conditioning in psychopathy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.
Birbaumer N, Veit R, Lotze M, Erb M, Hermann C, Grodd W, Flor H.
Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology and Section of Experimental Resonance Imaging of the CNS,
Department of Neuroradiology,
University of Tübingen,
Tübingen, Germany.

  • $\begingroup$ If memory serves, I think participants were allowed to keep any money they do not gamble. Yes, my last comment you referenced was overly critical. What I meant is that it would be hard (for me at least) to draw conclusions unless if the psychopaths gambled everything away when offered negative expected values. $\endgroup$ – user2475 Aug 21 '13 at 17:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Back at you! Well, I'm still on the fence. This all started for me b/c I saw an article titled something like "Is Warren Buffett a psychopath" that referenced the two studies in my two questions. It got me thinking "can WB's wealth really be boiled down to some sort of superman emotional control?" since he literally started from $0 (no family money, Graham refused to hire him for years(?), etc). Just a curiosity for me. I think I still need to see their responses to -E[X(t)] to be satisfied... $\endgroup$ – user2475 Aug 21 '13 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ lol, no way can I expect an immediate answer here: this is a very difficult stack, like math, where answers come from research that's probably few and far between since its so cutting edge and the difficulty (value) of the stacks' general concepts is so large. jmho. (+1 for your studies, question's value!) $\endgroup$ – user2475 Aug 21 '13 at 17:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy