The Mind of a Billionaire: Traits of Narcissism and Risk Appetite Revealed

by / ⠀Featured News / July 31, 2023
The Mind of a Billionaire: Traits of Narcissism and Risk Appetite Revealed

In the world of the super-rich, peculiarities and eccentricities are not uncommon. From Elon Musk’s online arguments about wild conspiracy theories to Howard Hughes hoarding his urine, the behaviors of billionaires often leave us perplexed. But what drives these individuals to such erratic behavior? Is there a connection between their massive fortunes and their unconventional actions? In this article, we will delve into the mind of a billionaire, exploring the traits of narcissism and risk appetite that often accompany extreme wealth.

The Puzzling Behavior of the Super-Rich

The behaviors exhibited by the super-rich have puzzled scientists for years. Historical figures like Howard Hughes and Steve Jobs, as well as contemporary billionaires like Elon Musk, have shown signs of eccentricity and even mental illness. But what is the root cause of these impulses? Psychology and neurology have attempted to provide answers by probing the origins of these behaviors.

Exploring the Psychological Angle

Psychologists specializing in wealth have analyzed the super-rich, aiming to understand their guilt, angst, and overall psychological state. It is not surprising that those worth millions or billions of dollars may exhibit traits such as narcissism, a desire for control, and extreme competitiveness. Research has shown that individuals with a net worth of over $25 million tend to be more focused on themselves than on others. This self-centeredness and lack of empathy towards those outside their inner circle may contribute to their puzzling behavior.

Neuroeconomics: Peering into the Billionaire’s Mind

Neuroeconomics takes the exploration of the billionaire’s mind even further. By combining neuroscience, cognitive science, behavioral science, and social psychology, this field aims to uncover the inner workings of the human brain when it comes to economic decision-making. However, even with these interdisciplinary approaches, the conclusions drawn about the strange behavior of billionaires seem rather unremarkable. It is no surprise that the super-rich may struggle to feel empathy towards others or that they possess an extra dose of narcissism.

Sudden Wealth Syndrome: The Dark Side of Extreme Wealth

While it may be easy to mock the problems faced by the super-rich, their lives have increasingly veered into extremes, leading to a condition known as “Sudden Wealth Syndrome.” Despite their wealth, many billionaires suffer from irritability, insomnia, paranoia, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. The adage that “money can’t buy happiness” rings true for these individuals. To cope with their psychological distress, some turn to unconventional methods such as ketamine, psilocybin, or extreme dietary practices.

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The Never-Ending Quest for More

A 2011 psychological study conducted by Boston College’s Center of Wealth and Philanthropy revealed a common sentiment among multimillionaires: no amount of wealth feels like enough. This feeling of perpetual dissatisfaction and financial insecurity contributes to their psychological distress. The study’s respondents, each worth at least $25 million, described feelings of anxiety and dissatisfaction, further highlighting the dark side of extreme wealth.

Genoeconomics: Is There a “Wealth Gene”?

The emerging field of genoeconomics aims to understand the genetic basis of financial success. Scientists in this field have been searching for a “wealth gene” that sets billionaires apart from the rest of the population. While some progress has been made, the discovery of a single gene responsible for extreme wealth remains elusive. However, researchers have found that genetic propensities for financial success often coincide with disordered personality traits. Pleiotropy, the phenomenon where one genetic locus affects multiple traits, has shown correlations between educational attainment (a proxy for wealth acquisition) and conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, and anxiety disorders.

The Complexity of Genetics and Behavior

Contrary to the notion of a single “wealth gene,” studies by Professor Daniel Benjamin at UCLA have identified thousands of distinct genetic variations associated with educational attainment and entrepreneurial spirit. These single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) work together in intricate combinations to create human diversity. It is this diversity that may explain the pairing of an entrepreneurial spirit with an openness to wild conspiracy theories.

The Allure of the Unconventional

Thinking outside the box has led to numerous innovations and entrepreneurial successes throughout history. The ability to embrace new and unconventional ideas is often a key factor in amassing great wealth. The SNPs associated with educational attainment, which may contribute to financial success, are also linked to extreme open-mindedness. This intellectual flexibility and curiosity can be advantageous in the business world. However, when applied outside of the entrepreneurial context, such as in discussions about vaccines or conspiracy theories, it can lead to bizarre and outlandish beliefs.

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The Future of Genoeconomics

The field of genoeconomics continues to evolve rapidly. Researchers like Professor Daniel Benjamin predict that within the next decade, genetic data will be incorporated into mainstream research in social science. This advancement could potentially lead to the identification of a polygenic index that defines the genome of a billionaire. However, the implications of such knowledge are not without ethical concerns. Embryo selection based on genetic traits associated with wealth could exacerbate inequality and lead to an increase in certain psychiatric conditions.

The Complexities of Wealth and Behavior

While genetics may play a role in the peculiarities of the super-rich, it is essential to recognize that success and behavior are influenced by a multitude of factors. Privilege, opportunity, and societal influences all contribute to an individual’s journey towards extreme wealth. Relying too heavily on biological determinism can lead to distortions and discrimination. It is crucial to maintain a balanced perspective when examining the behavior of the super-rich.

The Influence of Peer Pressure

Even the titans of industry are not immune to peer pressure. The desire to keep up with fellow billionaires can drive individuals to engage in extravagant and unconventional behavior. If their friends are venturing into space, it is only natural for them to want to do the same. The billionaire’s strangeness may stem from a combination of genetic predispositions, societal pressures, and an insatiable appetite for novelty and excitement.


In the enigmatic world of billionaires, traits of narcissism and risk appetite often accompany extreme wealth. While psychology and neurology shed some light on the behavior of the super-rich, the emerging field of genoeconomics offers tantalizing possibilities for understanding the genetic basis of financial success. However, it is crucial to remember that success is not solely determined by genetics, but by a complex interplay of individual traits, societal influences, and personal circumstances. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of the billionaire’s mind, let us approach the subject with curiosity and a balanced perspective.


Q: Are all billionaires eccentric or exhibit strange behavior?

A: No, not all billionaires exhibit eccentric behavior. While some may display peculiar traits, it is important to remember that billionaires are a diverse group of individuals with varying personalities and characteristics.

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Q: Can genetics alone determine a person’s wealth?

A: No, genetics alone cannot determine a person’s wealth. Success is influenced by a multitude of factors, including genetics, upbringing, education, opportunities, and hard work.

Q: Is there a single gene responsible for extreme wealth?

A: No, there is no single gene responsible for extreme wealth. Genoeconomics has revealed that multiple genetic variations contribute to traits associated with financial success.

Q: Do billionaires suffer from psychological distress?

A: Some billionaires may experience psychological distress, often referred to as Sudden Wealth Syndrome. This condition can manifest as irritability, insomnia, paranoia, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

Q: Should genetic information be used for embryo selection to create billionaire offspring?

A: The use of genetic information for embryo selection raises ethical concerns, including the potential for increased inequality and the risk of promoting certain psychiatric conditions. These factors should be carefully considered before pursuing such practices.

Q: Can thinking outside the box lead to success in entrepreneurship?

A: Yes, thinking outside the box is often associated with entrepreneurial success. Embracing unconventional ideas and approaches can lead to innovation and breakthroughs in the business world.

Q: Are the peculiarities of billionaires a cause or effect of their wealth?

A: The peculiarities exhibited by billionaires can be both a cause and effect of their wealth. Genetic predispositions, combined with societal pressures and an appetite for novelty, may contribute to their success, as well as their unconventional behavior.

Q: Should we view the behavior of billionaires with skepticism or admiration?

A: It is important to approach the behavior of billionaires with a balanced perspective. While some actions may seem eccentric or puzzling, it is essential to consider the complexities of wealth and the multitude of factors that contribute to individual behavior.

Q: Can peer pressure influence the behavior of billionaires?

A: Peer pressure can indeed influence the behavior of billionaires. The desire to keep up with fellow billionaires and maintain a certain level of status can drive individuals to engage in extravagant and unconventional actions.

First reported on Fortune

About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.


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