Standard Article

Risk-Taking Behavior

  1. Michelle Broaddus1,
  2. Angela Bryan2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0801

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Broaddus, M. and Bryan, A. 2010. Risk-Taking Behavior. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Colorado

  2. 2

    University of New Mexico

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Taking risks is an important and, indeed, valuable part of the human experience; from playing the stock market to traveling to unexplored lands to skydiving, people routinely engage in risk taking. But what are the psychological phenomena behind risk-taking behavior? And how can we make sense of self-destructive risk taking that potentially endangers people's lives? This article presents a brief introduction to the psychological study of risk-taking behavior. First, emerging research in brain structures, neurotransmitters, and genetics is described to capture the biological bases and substrates of risk-taking behavior. Next, we review basic research in the domain of judgment and decision making (JDM) to explore the connection between the human brain's perception of risk and an individual's resulting risk-taking behavior. We also cover the complex role of affect and emotion on these judgments. Finally, we discuss risk perception from within the broader framework of models of health behavior, with a specific focus on interventions to increase health behavior. For the purposes of this presentation, we adopt a definition of risk taking as a lack of ability to inhibit an automatic or prepotent response or to self-regulate one's behavior, resulting in limited delay of gratification and risky decision making.


  • risk-taking;
  • risk perception;
  • health models;
  • biological substrates of risk