Are you a risk taker or are you cautious?

The topic of risk taking, and how it is tied to a person’s perceived skills, abilities, and resources, is the topic that a University of Regina researcher is looking into.
Dallas Novakowski, a master’s psychology student, has received research funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
He is one of 34 students at the U of R who have received funding from the federal bodies that provide research funding: SSHRC, as well as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
“Often we generalize and say ‘someone is a risk taker’, meaning that they’re going to be more likely to take all sorts of risks, in all areas of life,” explains Novakowski. “There’s some evidence that if you take risks in some areas, you’re more likely to take risks in a lot of other areas, too.”
Novakowski is conducting research into new information about risk. “Something that is just starting to be recognized is what’s called ‘domain-specific risk taking’, the idea that we take risks in only very specific areas.”
For example, a person may drive in a risky manner, yet be very risk-averse when it comes to studies or career changes. They may parachute, but not risk losing money at a casino.
He looked at what’s called ‘pro-social’ risk taking: doing something heroic, but risky, for the good of a larger group. There’s also ‘non-anti social risks’, which include such things as extreme sports.
“We’re looking at characteristics such as strength, intelligence, and attractiveness and how they affect a person when it comes to taking risks,” he says.
The next phase of his research is to get a more objective sense of people’s abilities by bringing them into his laboratory. “It may be that people are willing to engage in such behaviours just because they see themselves as stronger and more attractive — not because they actually are.”

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