Some people live their lives by the motto “no risk – no fun!” and avoid hardly any risks. Others are clearly more cautious and focus primarily on safety when investing and for other business activities. Scientists from the University of Bonn in cooperation with colleagues from the University of Zurich studied the attitudes towards risk in a group of 56 subjects. They found that in people who preferred safety, certain regions of the brain show a higher level of activation when they are confronted with quite unforeseeable situations. In addition, they do not distinguish as clearly as risk takers whether a situation is more or less risky than expected. The results have just been published in the renowned “Journal of Neuroscience.”
“We were especially interested in the link between risk preferences and the brain regions processing this information,” says Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber from the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENs) at the University of Bonn. First, the researchers tested a total of 56 subjects for their willingness to take risks. “In an economic game, the test subjects had a choice between a secured payout and a lottery,” reports Sarah Rudorf from CENs, the study’s principal author. Those who showed a strong preference for the lottery in this test were categorized as risk takers. Others preferred the secured payout even if the lottery’s odds of winning were clearly better. They were put in the risk-averse group.