Men and Women May Take Different Kinds Of Risks Interview with:
Dr. Thekla Morgenroth

Preferred pronouns: They/them/their
Research Fellow in Social and Organisational Psychology
University of Exeter
Washington Singer Laboratories,
Exeter UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Risk-taking is often seen as an important trait that leads to economic success – for example when it comes to investing money – and career success. For example, we often hear that leaders need to be willing to take risks. Risk-taking is also strongly associated with masculinity, which leads to the idea that maybe gender differences in economic and career success can be explained by the fact that women are just too risk averse. When you look at the risk-taking literature, it appears that there is support for this idea with many studies showing that men do indeed take more risks than men.

Our research questions these ideas. We show that current measures of risk-taking are biased. They focus only on stereotypical “masculine” risk taking behaviors such as betting your money on the outcome of a sporting event or going whitewater rafting, and ignore the many risks that women take, such as going horseback riding or donating a kidney to a family member. When this bias is addressed, gender differences in risk-taking disappear or even reverse. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: I hope that readers take away from our paper that “risk-taking” us bit a straightforward concept and we don’t know whether men or women take more risks. It’s clear that both women and men are willing to take some risks and avoid others. Our findings also show that even when behaviors are matched in how risky they are – for example based on the likelihood of injury – people still perceive “masculine” behaviors as more risky than feminine ones. That shows us how our cultural association of risk with masculinity biases our own perceptions. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: I hope that future research uses the insights from our paper to address some of the issues of current measures of risk-taking in order to produce less biased, more informative research on risk-taking. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Sex, Drugs, and Reckless DrivingAre Measures Biased Toward Identifying Risk-Taking in Men?
Social Psychological and Personality Science
Thekla MorgenrothCordelia FineMichelle K. Ryan
First Published September 19, 2017

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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