How Well Do We Know Our Inner Daredevil? Probing the Relationship Between Self-Report and Behavioral Measures of Risk Taking

Jonathan J. Rolison, Thorsten Pachur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

To measure a person's risk-taking tendency, research has relied interchangeably on self-report scales (e.g., “Indicate your likelihood of engaging in the risky behavior”) and more direct measures, such as behavioral tasks (e.g., “Do you accept or reject the risky option?”). It is currently unclear, however, how the two approaches map upon each other. We examined the relationship between self-report likelihood ratings for risky choice in a monetary gamble task and actual choice, and tested how the relationship is affected by task ambiguity (i.e., when part of the information about risks and benefits is missing) and age. Five hundred participants (aged 19–85 years) were presented with 27 gambles, either in an unambiguous or an ambiguous condition. In a likelihood rating task, participants rated for each gamble the likelihood that they would accept it. In a separate choice task, they were asked to either accept or reject each gamble. Analyses using a signal-detection approach showed that people's likelihood ratings discriminated between accept and reject cases in their choices rather well. However, task ambiguity weakened the association between likelihood ratings and choice. Further, older adults' likelihood ratings anticipated their choices more poorly than younger adults'. We discuss implications of these findings for existing approaches to the study of risk-taking propensity, which have often relied on self-reported risk tendency for ambiguous activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-657
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Volume30
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • aging
  • ambiguity
  • decision making
  • risk taking
  • self-report
  • signal detection theory

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