Domain specificity in experimental measures and participant recruitment: an application to risk-taking behavior

Psychol Sci. 2006 Apr;17(4):300-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01702.x.


We challenge the prevailing notion that risk taking is a stable trait, such that individuals show consistent risk-taking/aversive behavior across domains. We subscribe to an alternative approach that appreciates the domain-specific nature of risk taking. More important, we recognize heterogeneity of risk profiles among experimental samples and introduce a new methodology that takes this heterogeneity into account. Rather than using a convenient subject pool (i.e., university students), as is typically done, we specifically targeted relevant subsamples to provide further validation of the domain-specific nature of risk taking. Our research shows that individuals who exhibit high levels of risk-taking behavior in one content area (e.g., bungee jumpers taking recreational risks) can exhibit moderate levels in other risky domains (e.g., financial). Furthermore, our results indicate that risk taking among targeted subsamples can be explained within a cost-benefit framework and is largely mediated by the perceived benefit of the activity, and to a lesser extent by the perceived risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment