Personality and risk-taking: common biosocial factors

J Pers. 2000 Dec;68(6):999-1029. doi: 10.1111/1467-6494.00124.


The first part of this article describes a study of the relationships between personality and risk-taking in six areas: smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, driving, and gambling. The participants, 260 college students, were given self-report measures of risky behaviors in each of the six areas and the Zuckerman-Kuhlman five-factor personality questionnaire. Generalized risk-taking (across all six areas) was related to scales for impulsive sensation seeking, aggression, and sociability, but not to scales for neuroticism or activity. Gender differences on risk-taking were mediated by differences on impulsive sensation seeking. The second part discusses biological traits associated with both risk-taking and personality, particularly sensation seeking, such as the D4 dopamine receptor gene. the enzyme monoamine oxidase, and augmenting or reducing of the cortical evoked potential. Comparative studies show relationships between biological markers shared with other species and correlated behaviors similar to sensation seeking in humans. A biosocial model of the traits underlying risk-taking is presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Monoamine Oxidase / blood
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / physiopathology
  • Personality Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / physiology
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Students / psychology


  • DRD4 protein, human
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4
  • Monoamine Oxidase