Navigation Links
Humans' response to risk can be unnecessarily dangerous, finds Tel Aviv University study

The traffic light ahead of you is turning yellow. Do you gun the engine and speed through the intersection, trusting that others will wait for their green, or do you slow down and wait your turn?

That depends more on experience than personality, according to new research from Tel Aviv University. Arnon Lotem, a behavioral ecologist from the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, reports in the prestigious journal Nature that people adopt risk-taking behaviors similar to those of animals like rats and bees. And this behavior, Prof. Lotem and his colleagues say, might not prepare humankind for the modern dangers we face every day like crossing the street, accepting a high-risk mortgage, or driving on the freeway.

Lotem believes that our risk-taking behavior had its advantages when we were living as cave-dwellers, but that it poses new and potentially dangerous challenges in our modern technology-driven world.

Feeling Risky

"People want to know how people make decisions, whether it's how you drive your car, or whether to invest in a mortgage. It's important to understand when and how we make those decisions, to understand the type of errors people are prone to make," says Prof. Lotem.

"What we have found is that people make decisions based on what option 'appears' to be better most of the time. Under conditions in the natural world this would be the best strategy, but in modern life it has nothing do with the real inherent risks," he adds, citing our individual responses to that yellow light.

People are aware of the actual risks when driving through a light at an intersection, but unless they've already had a brush-with-death or a brush-with-a-traffic-cop, the perceived risk remains low, says Prof. Lotem. This is because in most cases nothing happens to the risk-taker. "You save one minute, but you can lose everything. People don't do the math," he says.

Lotem's study found that, presented with simple decision-making stimuli, people are not analyzing the complete situation based on logical rationales or statistics. Instead, they appear to be making decisions based on simple strategies for coping in nature, based mainly on personal experience.

Evolved to Fear Cobras, not Traffic Lights

During many years of evolution and under natural conditions, he says, people made decisions like other animals. This tactic worked fine for survival, but did not however evolve to survive the modern world. "We've evolved to be afraid of snakes, but not traffic lights," he says.

The results of Lotem's research may also be used by economists, politicians and psychologists, who need to know when people will take risks, says Prof. Lotem. A wider understanding of this phenomenon can affect business decisions, the economy ― and, hopefully, the number of road accidents in America each year.

In the business world, Lotem says, "If you give feedback and rewards to employees in a clear way, they might be more willing to take risks on your behalf." He adds that this approach might help governments to cultivate the entrepreneurial activities of their citizens.

Don't Gamble On It

But the more complex the risk, the more difficult to predict how people will react. Lotem cautions that in complicated decision-making scenarios such as gambling, addiction and excitement are new variables that come into play. It is also difficult to assess whether children exhibit similar risk-taking strategies as adults, because children tend to imitate what adults around them are doing.


Contact: George Hunka
American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Related biology news :

1. New research on pre-eclampsia in mice may have important implications for humans
2. Fruit fly avoidance mechanism could lead to new ways to control pain in humans
3. Are humans hardwired for fairness?
4. First study hints at insights to come from genes unique to humans
5. Columbia geneticists uncover new gene involved in determining hair texture and density in humans
6. Genome of marine organism tells of humans unicellular ancestors
7. Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor
8. Earths soils bear unmistakable footprints of humans
9. Monkey malaria widespread in humans and potentially fatal
10. Humans have caused profound changes in Caribbean coral reefs
11. MIT finds key to avian flu in humans
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Humans' response to risk can be unnecessarily dangerous, finds Tel Aviv University study
(Date:6/21/2016)... 21, 2016 NuData Security announced today that ... of principal product architect and that Jon ... customer development. Both will report directly to ... moves reflect NuData,s strategic growth in its product ... customer demand and customer focus values. ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... New York , June 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... a new market report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by ... and Forecast, 2016 - 2024". According to the report, ... USD 11.60 billion in 2015 and is estimated ... reach USD 48.56 billion by 2024.  ...
(Date:6/7/2016)... 7, 2016  Syngrafii Inc. and San Antonio ... that includes integrating Syngrafii,s patented LongPen™ eSignature "Wet" ... collaboration will result in greater convenience for SACU ... while maintaining existing document workflow and compliance requirements. ... Highlights: ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has announced ... biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ("Propellon" ... commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors ... such as WDR5 represent an exciting class of ... precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances have ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... YORK , June, 23, 2016  The Biodesign ... to envision new ways to harness living systems and ... Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City ... than 130 participating students, showcased projects at MoMA,s Celeste ... Paola Antonelli , MoMA,s senior curator of architecture ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016 Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. today announced ... of its complement C3 inhibitor, APL-2. The trials ... dose studies designed to assess the safety, tolerability, ... in healthy adult volunteers. Forty subjects ... single dose (ranging from 45 to 1,440mg) or ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... regulatory and technical consulting, provides a free webinar on Performing Quality ... 13, 2016 at 12pm CT at no charge. , Incomplete investigations are still ...
Breaking Biology Technology: