A study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in collaboration with the University of Basel, Yale University, and the longitudinal German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study at DIW Berlin provides insights into how and in which domains people’s propensity to take risks changes with age. The results indicate that individual risk-taking propensity can be seen as a facet of personality that is subject to change. The study’s results have been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and are available online as SOEPpaper No. 816.
Although the propensity to take risks on average decreases over the lifespan, it is particularly susceptible to change in young adulthood up to the age of about 30 and in older age from about 65 on. These findings emerged from a study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in collaboration with the University of Basel, Yale University, and the longitudinal German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study, which provided the data.
The study tracked change in individual risk-taking propensity over a period of up to 10 years in various domains of life. According to the researchers, these early and late phases of life are particularly likely to be marked by individual cognitive and biological change and by significant life events, such as marriage or retirement. This could in turn impact the individual stability of risk-taking propensity.
Changes in risk-taking propensity tend to be particularly pronounced in the domains of work and recreation. It is here that the willingness to take risks decreases most noticeably over the lifespan. In the social domain, in contrast, risk-taking preferences barely change at all with age, as was confirmed by a behavioral experiment conducted alongside the study. The experiment showed that our willingness to trust people we don’t know changes very little with age.
“One possible explanation is that, in contrast to the domains of work and recreation, the importance of the social domain stays the same across the lifespan or even increases in old age as social networks shrink,” says Anika Josef, lead author of the study and researcher at the Center for Adaptive Rationality in the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Overall, women are less prone to take risks than men in all domains and across the whole lifespan.
At the individual level, the researchers also analyzed how risk-taking propensity relates to the personality traits of openness to experience, agreeability, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion. They found that individual risk-taking propensity is associated with the traits of extraversion and openness to experience. “In other words, if someone becomes more open or more extraverted over the course of time, their willingness to take risks is also likely to increase – and vice versa,” explains co-author David Richter (SOEP).
“Risk-taking propensity can be seen as a personality trait that is subject to change over the life course. But the changes that occur may differ from one domain to the next,” adds co-author Rui Mata, Assistant Professor and head of the Center for Cognitive and Decision Sciences at the University of Basel. “It is also interesting that individual changes over time are associated with changes in known personality traits,” says Rui Mata.
The study drew on longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP). Specifically, the researchers analyzed data provided by 44,076 individuals from 18 to 85 years of age, 52% of them women, between 2004 and 2014. The respondents answered questions on their general risk-taking propensity at up to nine measurement points.
Additionally, 11,903 respondents rated their attitudes to risk in specific domains of life, such as finances, recreation, work, health, social interactions, and driving, up to three times. As well as using these self-report measures, the researchers conducted behavioral experiments with respondents from another SOEP subsample to assess risk-taking behavior and trust.
"It's too often assumed that risk taking changes dramatically with age based largely on generalizations and stereotypes about more cautious older individuals. Here we show with the largest study to date on the topic that these assumptions are unfounded," says Gregory Samanez-Larkin, co-author and Assistant Professor of Psychology, Cognitive Science, and Neuroscience at Yale University. “The findings are likely to inspire new research on topics that have so far received less attention, such as age differences in social decision making."
Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP)
The Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is a representative multi-cohort survey that has been running since 1984. The study is run at DIW Berlin, an institute of the Leibniz Association. Each year, some 30,000 individuals in almost 15,000 German households are surveyed by TNS Infratest Sozialforschung (Munich) in personal interviews. They provide information on topics such as their personal and political attitudes, income, employment history, education, and health. Because the same people are surveyed every year, it is possible to track long-term psychological, economic, societal, and social developments.
Josef, A. K., Richter, D., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., Wagner, G. G., Hertwig, R., & Mata, R. (2016). Stability and change in risk-taking propensity across the adult life span. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000090
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin was founded in 1963. It is an interdisciplinary research institution dedicated to the study of human development and education. The Institute belongs to the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, one of the leading organizations for basic research in Europe.
Nicole Siller | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction