March 06, 2017

Who takes risks, and why?

Adam Sparks, UCLA

Who takes risks, and why? Does risk-taking by an agent in one context predict her risk-taking in other contexts? Attempting to answer these questions, I present a general conceptual model of decision-making under risk that integrates two inter-related pathways to risk-taking. The need-based pathway describes strategic response to competitive disadvantages; the ability-based pathway exploits competitive advantages. This broad model may help to reconcile long-standing disagreements regarding the etiology of risk-taking, especially debates between advocates of domain-general or domain-specific approaches to risk. Further, collaborators and I have applied this model to generate and test novel predictions about individual differences in diverse psychological/behavioral phenomena: pathogen avoidance, mating preferences, moral judgment, and cooperation/conflict decisions. There remain many opportunities for integrating the evolutionarily-informed study of risk-taking with the study of putatively domain-specific psychological mechanisms (e.g. emotions) and behaviors.