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Keywords:

  • risk-taking;
  • risk-perception;
  • risk attitude;
  • gender differences;
  • content specificity

Abstract

We present a psychometric scale that assesses risk taking in five content domains: financial decisions (separately for investing versus gambling), health/safety, recreational, ethical, and social decisions. Respondents rate the likelihood that they would engage in domain-specific risky activities (Part I). An optional Part II assesses respondents' perceptions of the magnitude of the risks and expected benefits of the activities judged in Part I. The scale's construct validity and consistency is evaluated for a sample of American undergraduate students. As expected, respondents' degree of risk taking was highly domain-specific, i.e. not consistently risk-averse or consistently risk-seeking across all content domains. Women appeared to be more risk-averse in all domains except social risk. A regression of risk taking (likelihood of engaging in the risky activity) on expected benefits and perceived risks suggests that gender and content domain differences in apparent risk taking are associated with differences in the perception of the activities' benefits and risk, rather than with differences in attitude towards perceived risk. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.