Taking Risks

The psychologists amongst us are always keen on games to assess our behavior and risk-taking is one that they like to check us out on. The latest game to hit the streets is the Social Balloon Analogue Risk Task. The new twist is the “social” part.

The Balloon Game is one where the participant pumps up his/her balloon and earns cash with each pump. If the balloon pops, so goes the accumulated cash. So the idea is to take the pumping to the limit and it is a test of nerve to get the balloon to the edge of destruction, then stop, grab the cash and run.

Now, the “social” part is that the participant is doing this with and for a partner. Partners came as male, female or a child in Fischer and Hills experiment reported in the latest issue of Evolution and Human Behavior (1) and the partners share equally in the spoils, if any.

Women were happy to take risks when paired with either women or men, but got a lot more careful when paired with a child. Men were only fairly careful when with a woman or a child, but stick them with another young man and the old testosterone got the better of them and they made very risky plays.

Perhaps we could have guessed at these results as we don’t expect women to be taking risks when taking care of babies and as for a young man well, how else could he interact when paired with another? Maybe they should have tried it with different age groups, or even more exciting, with members of different political parties.

  1. http://www.ehbonline.org/article/S1090-5138(12)00016-5/abstract

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