Men, Risk, and Crypto – an Unhappy Marriage

It’s a common fact that cryptocurrency is a male-dominated arena, 91% dominated according to data from Coin Dance, but this doesn’t just extend to the projects themselves – according to a September 2018 survey by Circle, men are twice as likely to invest in cryptocurrency than women. But what is it about cryptocurrency investing that is more attractive to men than women, despite all the stories of loss that plague the community? The science of risk and gender may hold the answers.

Testosterone, Baby

Cryptocurrency investing is an inherently risky business. The infant market is full of scam ICOs, price manipulation, pump and dumps, abandoned projects and the like, offering up a dozen ways for investors to lose their money. However, as we saw in 2017, there is also the potential for life changing sums of money to be made if you happen to buy and sell the right coin at the right time, and it is this glimmer of hope that keeps people in the game. For someone who has never navigated a market before, the odds of success are very small, so why do channels like Rekt Plebs, which revel in investor failure, all too often feature statements such as “what am I going to tell my girlfriend?” or “my wife is going to kill me”? It could come down to biology, according to research. A 1999 study on gender differences in gambling found that men tended to take riskier bets in the hope of a bigger return, something that has crossed all crypto investors’ paths at some point. As to why they do this, a 2009 study found that men seek to achieve and maintain a high social status (including increased wealth) in order to appear attractive to a potential partner, which can cause them to engage in riskier behaviors to attain it. Those searching for biological reasons have found that this is linked to levels of testosterone, something that may seem to adhere to a clichéd vision of Wall Street but actually has some merit – a 2008 study found that traders make more money on days when their testosterone levels are higher, while a second found that subjects with higher testosterone levels made risker bids during a financial board game. It has been suggested that a presence of raised testosterone biases the potential outcome of a decision, leading individuals to ignore or downplay negatives and favor the reward afforded by a ‘big win’. This explains how investors can ignore several red flags in a project and buy into the hype of a 100x return, something seen time and time again with scam ICOs.

The Impact of Stress

Market amateurs are well known for ‘buying the top and selling the bottom’, which is usually a result of not having the experience to master their emotional reaction to a situation and letting the stress of a situation dictate their actions. Stress releases the hormone cortisol into the body, and research has shown that a higher presence of cortisol increases the appetite for risk more than testosterone does, suggesting that those in stressful and already in potentially risky situations make more rash financial decisions. It shouldn’t therefore come as a surprise to know that men typically experience higher cortisol production at times of stress, giving them a sort of double whammy – they are lured into risky situations by their biology, and then hammered by it when the risk doesn’t pay off.

A Man’s World?

While there is much more than can be said on the subject of gender and risk taking, it is clear to see why more men are drawn to the world of cryptocurrency investing and trading than women – they are sold on the dream of dramatically improving their lifestyle and providing for their family if they have one, or making themselves more attractive as a potential mate if they don’t. The presence of testosterone can then cause them to make ill-judge investments, ignoring red flags in favor of the potential windfall, and then acting rashly when things go wrong, thanks to higher cortisol levels. All in all, it is not therefore a surprise that crypto forums and community groups are filled with men who have lost it all chasing the big dream. If they thought that was bad, now they have to tell the wife…

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