What Makes A Risk-Taker
Paul Cusma manages his clients' money cautiously, so the retirees among them 'don't have to go back to work, ' says the Tampa, Fla., financial adviser. In the investment realm, 'I'm always planning for a rainy day, ' he says.
But off the job -- watch out. Mr. Cusma, 36, rides one of the fastest motorcycles on the highway for 'an adrenaline boost, ' he says, adding: 'If you lose focus for one second, you crash and burn and die.' He also traveled to Russia to ride in a MiG fighter jet at more than 1, 000 miles per hour, soaring as high as 70, 000 feet. 'I don't want to wake up one day and realize I forgot to live my life, ' he says.
You might not think of yourself as a risk-taker. Think again. Recent studies using new experimental tools are upending the old belief that a person's appetite for risk is mostly inborn and unchanging. In fact, the reasons people take crazy gambles are far more complex. People who are cautious in some contexts may embrace risk in others, depending on factors such as their familiarity with the setting and their emotions at the time. The findings are exploding old stereotypes -- that women are innately more cautious than men, for example, or that teenagers are inevitably risk-seekers.
'It has been surprising to learn what a wide variety of reasons people have for risk-taking, ' says Elke Weber, a professor of international business at Columbia University and a leading researcher on risk. Understanding the roots of risk-taking can guide people in making better decisions, she says. Some long to advance in their careers or have new adventures but overestimate the hazards. Others race quickly and without thinking into dangerous risks.
美国哥伦比亚大学(Columbia University)国际商业管理学教授、风险领域的前沿学者埃尔克•韦伯(Elke Weber)表示，“得知促使人们采取风险行动的原因是如此多种多样真令人惊讶。”她还表示，搞清楚冒险行为产生的根源能够引导人们做出更好的决定。有些人渴望在职业上取得发展或开启新的冒险旅程，但他们却高估了风险。还有一些人行事草率，根本就没有考虑可能存在的危险。
Getting to know your surroundings can change how you size up a risk. 'Most people overestimate the probability of something going wrong' when they venture into unfamiliar turf, says Margie Warrell, a Melbourne, Australia-based authority on risk-taking who has coached many U.S. executives and employers. 'They also overestimate the consequences of things going badly, ' says Ms. Warrell, author of 'Stop Playing Safe.' With experience, they become more realistic, and learn they can handle the consequences of failure. 'The more often we step out of our comfort zone, the more we build our tolerance for risk-taking, ' she says.
了解你周边的环境可以改变你对风险程度的评估。来自澳大利亚墨尔本、研究风险承担方面的权威玛吉•沃勒尔(Margie Warrell)表示，当人们来到不熟悉的环境时，“多数人都会高估事情可能会出差错的概率”。沃勒尔曾经指导过很多美国的公司高管和雇主，并著有《别再打稳妥牌》(Stop Playing Safe)一书。她说，“人们同时也会高估事情出差错后所带来的后果。”随着经历的累积，人们会变得越来越切合实际，并且意识到他们能够掌控失败所带来的后果。她说，“我们越经常踏出我们感觉踏实的地带，我们对风险的容忍度就会越高。”
Mr. Cusma is an athlete who practices martial arts and works out regularly, lending him confidence in handling physical risks. Adventures like taking the MiG flight, set up in 2009 through a Sarasota, Fla., travel company called Incredible Adventures, provide an emotional outlet, he says.
Sometimes an environment can shape risk-taking behavior. Jennifer Bellinghausen of Austin, Texas, a full-time caregiver to her disabled mother, isn't a risk-taker and never thought of getting a tattoo. The 39-year-old mother of two is terrified of needles and devotes her time to her family. But when she ventured into Mom's Tattoos in Austin several years ago with a friend who was getting one, the atmosphere in the shop changed her mind. Owner Deborah Obregon was so friendly that 'it was like we were instant best friends, ' Ms. Bellinghausen says. Ms. Obregon and another tattoo artist chatted with her for more than an hour, and Ms. Bellinghausen eventually took the plunge and got a 3-inch ankle tattoo of 'a little kitty cat, ' she says. 'It surprised me; I'm not a risk-taker, ' she says.
有些时候，环境能够塑造冒险举动。来自德克萨斯州奥斯汀(Austin)的詹妮弗•别林斯豪森(Jennifer Bellinghausen)全职在家照顾她残疾的母亲，她不是一个爱冒险的人，也从来没想过去纹身。这位39岁、两个孩子的母亲害怕见针，她把全部时间都奉献给了家人。但是，数年以前，当她陪着一个想要纹身的朋友走进奥斯汀一家名为“妈妈纹身”(Mom's Tattoos)的店铺时，她的观念便被这家店铺的气氛改变了。别林斯豪森表示，店主黛博拉•奥夫雷贡(Deborah Obregon)是那么友善，“我们瞬间就变成了要好的朋友”。别林斯豪森说道，奥夫雷贡和另一位纹身师花了一个多小时和她面谈，最终她鼓起勇气，在脚踝处纹上了一只3英寸（约7.6厘米）大的“小猫”。她还说，“我自己也很吃惊；我并不是个爱冒险的人。”
Effects of 'Culture of Honor'
Strong emotions also spur risk-taking, research shows. Men who subscribe to a 'culture of honor' and believe they must defend their manhood or keep others from pushing them around are more likely to start an argument or attack a fellow motorist in a fit of road rage, says a 2012 study in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Other research shows that experiencing discrimination or rejection leads people to take more chances.
研究表明，强烈的情绪也会激发冒险行为。2012年发表在《社会心理和人格科学》(Social Psychological and Personality Science)上的一篇研究表明，那些崇尚“尊荣文化”、笃信自己的男性尊严不容侵犯或者认定自己必须避免被别人摆布的男性，更容易在发生驾驶纠纷时出言不逊或对其他司机大打出手。另有研究表明，遭到歧视或者拒绝也会让人们铤而走险。
Ione Fletcher Kleven was annoyed one spring night in 2010 when she heard a fight break out in the front yard of her Castro Valley, Calif., home. She was determined to protect a garden she and her grandson had just planted there.
2010年一个春日的夜晚，家住加利福尼亚卡斯特罗谷(Castro Valley)的艾奥尼•弗莱彻•克列文(Fletcher Kleven)听到她家前院有打架的声响。她很生气，并且决意要保护她和她的孙辈刚刚耕种不久的花园。
The 67-year-old portrait artist isn't usually a risk-taker. She dislikes flying, never gambles and has been married to her husband Oliver for 49 years. When she opened the door, her eyes met those of a helpless, screaming 14-year-old boy who was being beaten and stabbed by two burly men. 'I felt a rush of heat up my spine, ' says the 5-foot-6-inch grandmother, 'and I started running' straight toward the assailants. 'I got so mad I scared myself.'
She grabbed the boy's wrist and pulled him from under his attackers, screaming in their faces, 'Get out of here!' Her husband, a 6-foot former Marine, stepped onto the porch, and the attackers fled. The wounded teen recovered after surgery and several months' rehabilitation. Ms. Kleven is still surprised at the gamble she took, she says. 'I don't want to hurt anybody. But that night I would have ripped their heads off.'
Past studies typically measured people's appetite for risk by asking them to make choices in a laboratory setting between receiving a set amount of cash and playing a lottery with varying odds of winning different amounts of money. Men tended to make riskier choices in these experiments, which led researchers to conclude the women in general have less appetite for risk. The reality may have been that men typically are more used to taking financial risks.
Researchers have developed new tools to measure the nuances of risky behavior, and their findings have dashed that stereotype. A scale developed at Columbia University gauges risk-taking not only in the financial domain but in social, ethical, recreational and health areas. Researchers have found risk-takers in one realm may be timid in others.
Women feel more comfortable than men taking social risks, such as moving to a new city or wearing unconventional clothes, according to studies using this new, domain-specific risk-taking scale. When researchers factor in differences in how men and women perceive various kinds of risks, women are no more risk-averse than men, Dr. Weber says.
'Cold' vs. 'Hot' Decision-Making
Another experimental tool, called the Columbia Card Task, enabled researchers to discover that teens aren't always the dangerous risk-takers they are believed to be. The task presents subjects with a computer image of several rows of cards face down. They earn money by turning over a winning card with a smiley face, but they lose a lot of money if they turn over a losing card with a frowning face. A 'cold version' of the task invites calm, rational decision-making by having participants decide all at once how many cards to turn over. A 'hot version' arouses more tension and emotion by requiring subjects to turn cards over one by one.
另一项名为哥伦比亚卡片任务(Columbia Card Task)的试验工具令研究人员发现，青少年并不像大家通常认为的那样总是不计后果的冒失鬼。这项任务的每位测试对象都会看到一个电脑画面，画面上排列着几排全部正面朝下的卡片。当测试对象翻过画着笑脸的得分卡时便可以赢钱，但当他们翻过画着皱眉脸的失分卡时就会输掉很多钱。这项任务的“冷静”版本需要测试对象运用镇定、理性的决策方式立即决定他们想要翻过多少张卡片。而这项任务的“冲动”版本则要求测试对象一张一张的翻过卡片，令测试过程更加紧张、刺激。
The task's creator, Bernd Figner, an assistant psychology professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands, likens the cold version of the test to making a single decision about car-insurance policies with varying deductibles and coverage limits. The hot version is like going out to a bar for a drink, then deciding with each new round whether to have another, he says. 'In the hot state, people are more likely to do risky things they will later regret.'
这项任务的创造者是贝恩德•菲戈内(Bernd Figner)，他是荷兰内梅亨大学(Radboud University)的心理学助理教授。菲戈内把“冷静”版本的任务比作根据不同的免赔金额和覆盖范围，做出一个关于汽车保险的决定。而“冲动”版本就像去酒吧喝酒，在一轮酒刚倒上的时候就决定跟不跟着喝下一轮，他说。“在冲动状态下，人们更经常做以后会后悔的冒失事儿。”
Teens take plenty of risks during the hot version of the task, Dr. Figner's research shows. But even a reckless teenager becomes sober as a judge during the cold version of the task in a laboratory. Helping teens understand how emotions can affect their choices -- for instance when they're feeling peer pressure or the pull of a strong temptation during a night out -- could help reduce risk-taking.