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Being reckless or prudent is innate

A study shows that our predisposition to take risks is a feature of behavior that remains stable over time.

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Being reckless or prudent is innate

To a large extent, living consists in making decisions, a field of human behavior studied by psychologists, neuroscientists and economists from multiple points of view.

Because our personality is manifested in these daily choices: can I tolerate in this work that bores me sovereignty or do I throw myself into the void to look for something more interesting? Do I keep my money in the bank or invest it in the stock market? Contract an organized trip to Vietnam or rent me a car and travel the country on my own?

I mean, do I tend to be prudent or do I care about taking a risk?

According to a large study carried out by experts from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany, with financial support from the Swiss National Foundation for Science, this predisposition in one way or another is like the intellectual coefficient , a psychological constant that remains stable throughout our life. We are and will always be more or less reckless, regardless of the circumstances and the decisions that we finally adopt.

This is his conclusion after analyzing the personality of 1,507 adults between 20 and 36 years who underwent three different types of tests: reports made by the volunteers themselves about their propensity to take risks in hypothetical situations, experimental tests with financial incentives and interviews about his daily behavior.

To ensure the robustness of the results, they repeated all the tests to 109 participants six months later.

An attention call

One of the most interesting discoveries of the work, published in the scientific journals Science Advances and Nature Human Behavior, is that the reaction to real and hypothetical circumstances was significantly very similar. The divergences occur in the experimental tests, and used to depend on the format of the test.

Thus, the volunteers responded differently if the risk was presented concretely, as part of the game that was proposed to them, or in a more abstract way.

Researchers believe that these kinds of experiments – those preferred by economists – tend to provide an inconsistent image that is difficult to explain with unified risk-taking theories, as noted by Jörg Rieskamp, ​​director of the Department of Economic Psychology at the School of Psychology. From the University of Basel, which has participated in the research.

And this is how Ralph Hertwig, director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, assessed the importance of the new study: “It is a wake-up call for researchers to reconsider the way in which traits are measured. It is clear that traditionally there has not been a prior preference for taking risks or not in various situations, while our work (based on the testimony of the participants and the real decisions of their lives) reveals that there is a general factor, which can be considered a feature of a stable character over time. This finding will make it possible to look for the biological basis of risky behavior in future studies”, the expert confides.

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