The generalizability of risk preference to real-world outcomes

Risk preference may shape everyday decision making and is assumed to be particularly expressed in maladaptive and clinical behaviors, such as impaired financial decision making, gambling, substance use, and taking excessive risks in recreational activities or regarding one’s health. As individuals’ risk preferences have the potential to influence the course of entire lives, with according consequences for society (e.g., in terms of pre- or intervention), the assessment of risk preference has been a focal research topic for decades.

However, whereas we have recently conducted comprehensive investigations on the nature of the construct risk preference and how to best measure it in the lab (see section "The nature of the construct risk preference and its measurement"), there is a surprising lack of scientific knowledge regarding the criteria (i.e., in terms of real-life outcomes) that the different measures of risk preference ought to predict. That is, there is a vacuum of research targeting what risks people perceive in the modern world, with its novel opportunities and threats. In other words, the empirical evidence on the ecology of risk taking is scarce.

In the context of a three-year SNSF Ambizione project I am thus currently working on testing the generalizability of the construct risk preference (and the predictive validity of its various measures) to relevant life outcomes. To this end, I make use of novel methodologies for ecological assessments, which serve to create a map of risk perception and risk taking in the contemporary population. Ultimately, this map will permit a rigorous test of the various risk-taking measures' predictive validity.

If you are interested in similar research questions and would like to collaborate (also in the applied context), and / or if you have access to relevant data on people's risk-taking behaviors "in the wild", I would be glad if you contact me!

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