It has always been believed that women take fewer risks than men. But according to recent research, the reality of who takes risks and when is actually a bit more complicated.
A lot of what psychologists know about risk-taking comes from lab studies where people are asked to choose between a guaranteed amount of money or a gamble for a larger amount.
AdvertisementBut that kind of decision isn't the same as deciding whether you're going to speed on the way home from work, wear a condom, or go bungee jumping.
Research in the last 10 years or so has found that the way people choose to take risks in one domain doesn't necessarily hold in other domains.
"The typical view is that women take less risks than men, that it starts early in childhood, in all cultures, and so on," said Bernd Figner of Columbia University and the University of Amsterdam, who co-wrote the paper with Elke Weber of Columbia University.
The truth is more complicated. Men are willing to take more risks in finances. But women take more social risks-a category that includes things like starting a new career in your mid-thirties or speaking your mind about an unpopular issue in a meeting at work.
It seems that this difference is because men and women perceive risks differently. That difference in perception may be partly because of how familiar they are with different situations, Figner said.
"If you have more experience with a risky situation, you may perceive it as less risky," Figner added.
The study will be published in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.