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If we had tested Bernie Madoff’s genes, could we have saved investors millions?An emerging field of study may not go quite so far — but it could give economists tools to
“Genoeconomics” has since 2007 been quietly gaining momentum among a cadre of economists. The main
The Boston Globe’s Leon Neyfakh recently profiled the academics leading the charge — German-Dutch economist Philipp Koellinger, MIT’s David Cesarini and several Cornell, Harvard and Union college professors.
“They say economists are missing something important by ignoring the genetics underlying things like risk-taking, patience, and generosity,” Nayfakh writes. “If we could grasp how our genes influenced such economic traits, they argue, the knowledge could be transformative.”
The potential uses the group cite include alerting parents that their kids may be prone to impulsive spending or risky investing; or helping policymakers design better laws that deal with alcoholics or cigarette smokers.
The economists are aware that they must avoid the trip that prompted a temporary mania about a “violence gene” several decades ago.
But, Neyfakh writes, “to talk to the genoeconomists about their vision for the field is to listen to people acutely reluctant to overpromise, or to come off as naive.”
You can see their latest work here, in which they found a statistically significant correlation between genotype and measurements of trust.