BUSINESS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Traders' High: How Wall Street Gets Carried Away

It is easy to dismiss Jérôme Kerviel, the rogue trader at Société Générale, as a fluke.

So here is a sobering thought for Wall Street: There may be a bit of Mr. Kerviel in all of us.

A small group of scientists, including some psychologists, say they are starting to discover what many Wall Street professionals have long suspected -- that people are hard-wired for money. The human brain, these researchers say, responds to high-stakes trading just as it does to the lure of sex. And the riskier the trades get, the more the brain craves them.

French prosecutors have likened Mr. Kerviel's trades to a drug habit. That is no surprise to Brian Knutson, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Stanford University and a pioneer in neurofinance, an emerging field that combines psychology, neuroscience and economics, to examine how the brain makes decisions.

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