Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 167–193

Risk aversion and physical prowess: Prediction, choice and bias

  • Sheryl Ball
  • Catherine C. Eckel
  • Maria Heracleous

DOI: 10.1007/s11166-010-9105-x

Cite this article as:
Ball, S., Eckel, C.C. & Heracleous, M. J Risk Uncertain (2010) 41: 167. doi:10.1007/s11166-010-9105-x


This paper reports on experiments where individuals are asked to make risky decisions for themselves, and to predict the risky decisions of others. Prior research shows that people predict women to be more risk averse than men, a result we confirm. We investigate whether differences in physical prowess underlie actual and perceived gender differences, a hypothesis suggested by both evolutionary and economic theories. Overall we find that perceptions of others’ risk attitudes reflect stereotypes about gender and strength but tend to exaggerate the underlying relationships. Physically stronger and taller people and those perceived as attractive are predicted to be more risk tolerant, while women are perceived to be more risk averse. The impact of gender and physical prowess measures on actual gamble choices is much weaker. Sources of prediction bias are examined, showing that specific characteristics of the target and predictor lead to systematic over-prediction or under-prediction of risk aversion.


Risk aversionPhysical riskExperimentGenderStereotyping

JEL classification


Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheryl Ball
    • 1
  • Catherine C. Eckel
    • 2
  • Maria Heracleous
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.School of Economic, Political and Policy SciencesUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus