Although fearlessness in the face of nature's wrath likely has a genetic component, there are social forces at play too, said Dr. Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
"What is interesting is that one of the most well-studied and researched storms was Hurricane Katrina," Bea said. "Stanford and Princeton researchers looked at groups of residents who rode the storm out, residents who left, emergency workers who came in to help."
Bea said people who weather big storms instead of escaping to safety may not be in the sensation-seeking category at all. Perhaps they have a lack of financial and social support, or they just don't want to leave their communities.
"They embody the American working class -- independent individuals," he said. "People who don't want to leave their homes, who want to stay close to neighbors and friends because they have a sense of obligation, like a ship's captain."
For more on thrill-seeking behavior, visit the American Psychological Association.
SOURCES: Rick Hoyle, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience, and associate director for the Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Emanuel Maidenberg, Ph.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry, and director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Clinic, UCLA; Scott Huettel, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience, Duke University; Scott Bea, Psy.D., clinical psychologist, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio
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