We reviewed studies relating risk taking to personality traits. This search long has been elusive due to the large number of definitions of risk and to the variety of personality traits associated with risk taking in different forms and domains. In order to reconcile inconsistent findings, we categorized risk taking measures into self-report behavior inventories, self-report trait-based scales, and choice-based tasks. Likewise, we made a distinction between specific risk-related traits (e.g., sensation seeking, impulsivity) and more general traits (e.g., the Big Five). Sensation seeking aspects like thrill and experience seeking were more strongly associated with recreational and social risks that trigger emotional arousal. Impulsivity was associated with ethical, health safety, gambling, and financial risk taking, due to disregard of future consequences and to lack of self-control. Among the Big Five, extraversion and openness to experience were associated with risk seeking; whereas conscientiousness and agreeableness had more established links with risk aversion. Neuroticism facets, like anxiety and worry, had negative relationships with risk seeking; other facets, like anger and depression, promoted risk seeking. We concluded that the notion of a unidimensional “risk taking” trait seems misleading. The interplay of many traits encompassed in an overarching temperament model best represented personality-risk relations. Positive emotionality traits promoted risky behaviors that confer an emotionally rewarding experience to the person. Negative emotionality traits lead to heightened perceptions of danger, primarily motivating the avoidance of risk. The last disinhibition affected risk taking as a result of differences in self-control control acting upon momentary feelings and in self-interest. Potential applications for practitioners are also discussed.
- Sensation seeking
- Big Five
- Positive emotionality
- Negative emotionality
- Risk taking
- Personality assessment
- Problem behaviors
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Some debate exists regarding the orthogonality of agreeableness and honesty-humility. Please see Ashton, Lee, and de Vries (2014) for a comprehensive look at this question.
For brevity, we only refer to representative examples in the current model, rather than a comprehensive diagram.
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Lauriola, M., Weller, J. (2018). Personality and Risk: Beyond Daredevils— Risk Taking from a Temperament Perspective. In: Raue, M., Lermer, E., Streicher, B. (eds) Psychological Perspectives on Risk and Risk Analysis. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92478-6_1
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