Project

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Biological Foundations of Risk Taking

English title Biological Foundations of Risk Taking
Applicant Rieskamp Jörg
Number 136227
Funding scheme Sinergia
Research institution Fakultät für Psychologie Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.06.2012 - 29.02.2016
Approved amount 1'774'295.00
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Keywords (5)

risk taking; decision making; cognitive modeling; human genetics; hormonal influences

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

Lay Summary

Title: Biological Foundations of Risk Taking

Benjamin Franklin (1789) once famously remarked that in this world there is nothing certain but death and taxes. Although we cannot help but navigate a world full of risk and uncertainty, people differ widely in how they deal with risk. Psychologists and economists have documented a large inter-individual variability in people’s risk taking, but the determinants of this variability are still largely unknown. Recent research, however, suggests that biological factors contribute to a person’s appetite or disdain for risk. To address this, the current project will elicit risk taking using a wide array of behavioral paradigms and investigates the cognitive, genetic, and hormonal foundations of risk taking. Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach by linking economic psychology, cognitive and decision science, and cognitive and molecular neuroscience enables the project to pursue important objectives: First, risk taking should be measured with a variety of paradigms. Second, the cognitive mechanisms and processes underlying risk taking should be identified by using cognitive modeling techniques. Third, overt behavior and cognitive processes will be related to genetic variations and hormonal states, respectively. Consequently, the project comprehensively investigates to what extent differences in risk-taking behavior and in associated cognitive processes can be mapped onto differences in biological properties. The project should help in understanding the bio-psychological foundations of risk taking, thereby contributing to improved treatment of pathological risk taking such as drug addiction or gambling.

The project is led by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rieskamp (University of Basel, Economic Psychology), Prof. Dr. Ralph Hertwig (University of Basel, Cognitive and Decision Science), Prof. Dr. Andreas Papassotiropoulos (University of Basel, Molecular Neuroscience), and Prof. Dr. Dominique de Quervain (University of Basel, Cognitive Neuroscience).


German Version:

Title: Biological Foundations of Risk Taking

Benjamin Franklin (1789) hat einmal treffend festgehalten, dass Nichts in dieser Welt sicher sei ausser dem Tod und den Steuern. Obwohl wir in einer Welt mit vielen Risiken und Unsicherheiten leben, gehen Menschen doch sehr unterschiedlich mit Risiken um. Psychologen und Ökonomen haben auch grosse Unterschiede zwischen Menschen im Umgang mit Risiken dokumentiert. Die Ursachen für diese Unterschiedlichkeit ist aber weitestgehend unbekannt. Die aktuelle Forschung weisst darauf hin, dass menschliches Risikoverhalten durch biologische Faktoren beeinflusst wird. Das Forschungsprojekt folgt diesen Hinweisen, indem es Riskoverhalten mit unterschiedlichsten Paradigmen messen und die kognitiven, genetischen, und hormonellen Grundlagen untersuchen wird. Mit Hilfe eines multi-disziplinären Ansatzes, der die Wirtschaftspsychologie, die Kognitions- und Entscheidungswissenschaft, und die kognitive und molekulare Neurowissenschaft zusammenbringt, sollen wichtige Ziele erreicht werden: Zunächst soll Risikoverhalten mit verschiedenen Paradigmen festgehalten werden. Des Weiteren werden die kognitiven Prozesse, die zu Risikoverhalten führen, mit Hilfe kognitiver Modellierung beschrieben. Letzlich werden die Unterschiede im Risikoverhalten und den zugehörigen kognitiven Prozessen mit genetischen Variationen und Hormonstatus in Beziehung gesetzt. Das Projekt untersucht somit umfassend die biologischen Grundlagen von Risikoverhalten und den zugrunde liegenden kognitiven Prozessen. Das Projekt kann zum besseren bio-psychologischen Verständnis von Riskoverhalten führen und die Behandlung von pathologischem Risikoverhalten, wie Drogenabhängigkeit und Spielsucht, erleichtern.


Dem Forschungsprojekt gehören an: Prof. Dr. Jörg Rieskamp (Universität Basel, Economic Psychology), Prof. Dr. Ralph Hertwig (Universität Basel, Cognitive and Decision Science), Prof. Dr. Andreas Papassotiropoulos (Universität Basel, Molecular Neuroscience), und Prof. Dr. Dominique de Quervain (Universität Basel, Cognitive Neuroscience).

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
A common NTRK2 variant is associated with emotional arousal and brain white-matter integrity in healthy young subjects
Spalek K, Coynel D, Freytag V, Hartmann F, Heck A, Milnik A, de Quervain D, Papassotiropoulos A (2016), A common NTRK2 variant is associated with emotional arousal and brain white-matter integrity in healthy young subjects, in Translational Psychiatry, 6(3), e758-e758.
Decisions from Experience: From Monetary to Medical Gambles
Lejarraga Tomás, Pachur Thorsten, Frey Renato, Hertwig Ralph (2016), Decisions from Experience: From Monetary to Medical Gambles, in Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 29(1), 67-77.
Stability and Change in Risk-Taking Propensity Across the Adult Life Span
Josef A. K., Richter D., Samanez-Larkin G. R., Wagner G. G., Hertwig R., Mata R. (2016), Stability and Change in Risk-Taking Propensity Across the Adult Life Span, in J Pers Soc Psychol, 1(1), 1-2.
Computational dissection of human episodic memory reveals mental process-specific genetic profiles
Luksys G., Fastenrath M., Coynel D., Freytag V., Gschwind L., Heck A., Jessen F., Maier W., Milnik A., Riedel-Heller S. G., Scherer M., Spalek K., Vogler C., Wagner M., Wolfsgruber S., Papassotiropoulos A., de Quervain D. J. (2015), Computational dissection of human episodic memory reveals mental process-specific genetic profiles, in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 112(35), 4939-48.
Effective Connectivity between Hippocampus and Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Controls Preferential Choices from Memory
Gluth S., Sommer T., Rieskamp J., Buchel C. (2015), Effective Connectivity between Hippocampus and Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Controls Preferential Choices from Memory, in Neuron, 86(4), 1078-90.
Genetic Analysis of Association Between Calcium Signaling and Hippocampal Activation, Memory Performance in the Young and Old, and Risk for Sporadic Alzheimer Disease
Heck A., Fastenrath M., Coynel D., Auschra B., Bickel H., Freytag V., Gschwind L., Hartmann F., Jessen F., Kaduszkiewicz H., Maier W., Milnik A., Pentzek M., Riedel-Heller S. G., Spalek K., Vogler C., Wagner M., Weyerer S., Wolfsgruber S., de Quervain D. J., Papassotiropoulos A. (2015), Genetic Analysis of Association Between Calcium Signaling and Hippocampal Activation, Memory Performance in the Young and Old, and Risk for Sporadic Alzheimer Disease, in JAMA Psychiatry, 72(10), 1029-36.
Sell in May and Go Away? Learning and Risk Taking in Nonmonotonic Decision Problems
Frey Renato, Rieskamp Jörg, Hertwig Ralph (2015), Sell in May and Go Away? Learning and Risk Taking in Nonmonotonic Decision Problems, in Journal of Experimental Psychology-Learning Memory and Cognition, 41(1), 193-208.
The role of cognitive abilities in decisions from experience: Age differences emerge as a function of choice set size
Frey Renato, Mata Rui, Hertwig Ralph (2015), The role of cognitive abilities in decisions from experience: Age differences emerge as a function of choice set size, in Cognition, 142, 60-80.
The Two Settings of Kind and Wicked Learning Environments
Hogarth R. M., Lejarraga T., Soyer E. (2015), The Two Settings of Kind and Wicked Learning Environments, in Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(5), 379-385.
The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making, 2 Volume Set
Gideon Keren, George Wu (2015), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making, 2 Volume Set.
BAIAP2 is related to emotional modulation of human memory strength.
Luksys Gediminas, Ackermann Sandra, Coynel David, Fastenrath Matthias, Gschwind Leo, Heck Angela, Rasch Bjoern, Spalek Klara, Vogler Christian, Papassotiropoulos Andreas, de Quervain Dominique (2014), BAIAP2 is related to emotional modulation of human memory strength., in PloS one, 9(1), 83707-83707.
Fear shapes information acquisition in decisions from experience.
Frey Renato, Hertwig Ralph, Rieskamp Jörg (2014), Fear shapes information acquisition in decisions from experience., in Cognition, 132(1), 90-9.
Substantial SNP-based heritability estimates for working memory performance
Vogler C., Gschwind L., Coynel D., Freytag V., Milnik A., Egli T., Heck A., de Quervain D. J., Papassotiropoulos A. (2014), Substantial SNP-based heritability estimates for working memory performance, in Transl Psychiatry, 4, 438-438.
Deciding not to decide: computational and neural evidence for hidden behavior in sequential choice.
Gluth Sebastian, Rieskamp Jörg, Büchel Christian (2013), Deciding not to decide: computational and neural evidence for hidden behavior in sequential choice., in PLoS computational biology, 9(10), 1003309-1003309.
Predicting risk-taking behavior from prefrontal resting-state activity and personality.
Studer Bettina, Pedroni Andreas, Rieskamp Jörg (2013), Predicting risk-taking behavior from prefrontal resting-state activity and personality., in PloS one, 8(10), 76861-76861.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. Dr. Jerome Busemeyer United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Evgeny Rogaev/UMass United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Eric Jan Wagenmakers Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Dr. Thorsten Pachur, MPI Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Dr. Tim Pleskac United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Roozendaal Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Adrian Bruhin Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Dr. Bernd Figner Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Dr. Bettina Studer Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
6th Bernoulli Workshop Talk given at a conference Psychological factors of voluntary retirement saving 04.12.2015 Basel, Switzerland Pedroni Andreas;
6th Bernoulli Workshop Talk given at a conference The challenges of measuring the multidimensional construct risk attitudes 04.12.2015 Basel, Switzerland Frey Renato;
25th Subjective Probability, Utility, and Decision Making Conference Talk given at a conference The Basel-Berlin risk study: How to measure risk taking 16.08.2015 Budapest, Hungary Frey Renato;
57th TeaP (Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen) Talk given at a conference What is the essence of risk taking? 08.03.2015 Hildesheim, Germany Frey Renato;
Society for Judgment and Decision Making (SJDM) Talk given at a conference Comparing preference parameters of risk taking across laboratory tasks: How stable, generalizable and predictive are they? 21.11.2014 Long Beach, CA, United States of America Pedroni Andreas;
General Meeting of the European Association of Social Psychology Talk given at a conference The Basel-Berlin Risk Study. Exploring the latent constructs behind risk taking. 09.07.2014 Amsterdam, Netherlands Frey Renato;
Annual meeting of the society for judgment and decision making Poster Comparing preference parameters of risk taking across laboratory tasks: How stable, generalizable and predictive are they? 13.06.2014 Long Beach, USA, United States of America Frey Renato; Hertwig Ralph; Rieskamp Jörg;
56th Conference of Experimental Psychologists Talk given at a conference The Basel-Berlin Risk Study: First Results on Experiential Measures of Risk Taking 31.03.2014 Giessen, Germany Rieskamp Jörg; Hertwig Ralph; Pedroni Andreas; Frey Renato; Lejarraga Tomás;
56th TeaP (Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen) Talk given at a conference Modeling sequential risk taking with cumulative prospect theory 30.03.2014 Gießen, Germany Pedroni Andreas;
56th TeaP (Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen) Talk given at a conference The Basel-Berlin Risk Study: First results on experiential measures of risk taking 30.03.2014 Gießen, Germany Frey Renato;


Abstract

In a letter, Benjamin Franklin (1789) once famously remarked that in this world there is nothing certain but death and taxes. Indeed, risk and uncertainty dominate decisions ranging from taking the subway instead of a taxi, to undergoing surgery instead of chemotherapy, to investing in stocks instead of bonds. Although we cannot help but navigate a world full of risk and uncertainty, not everyone responds to them in the same way. In fact, people differ widely in how they deal with risk: Some people refrain from all risky bets, whether in the stock market, in their profession (e.g., never change jobs) or, simply, in daily habits (e.g., always carry an umbrella); others may thrive on the opportunities associated with risk, and even actively seek out situations that would frighten others (e.g., running with the bulls in Pamplona or experimenting with illegal drugs).For a long time, psychologist and economists have been developing behavioral paradigms to measure how people respond to risks and uncertainties. However, theoretical conceptions of risk taking differ across disciplines. Economists typically define risk as the variability of outcomes and risk taking as a preference for this variability. Clinicians and psychologists, on the other hand, often define risk taking as behavior with potentially harmful and negative consequences. Grounded in these theoretical views, the behavioral paradigms measuring risk taking differ substantially between the disciplines. Whereas economists use rather simple but well-defined choices between monetary gambles to measure risk taking, clinicians use more complex, but also more natural risk-taking paradigms. Both approaches have documented a large inter-individual variability in people’s risk taking, but the determinants of this variability are still largely unknown. Recent research, however, suggests that biological factors such as a person’s genetic make up and hormone levels contribute to a person’s appetite or disdain for risk. To address this, we will elicit risk taking using a wide array of behavioral paradigms and investigate risk taking, taking into account its cognitive, genetic, and hormonal foundations.Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach by linking decision science, cognitive psychology and cognitive and molecular neuroscience enables us to pursue several important objectives: First, building upon but also going beyond recent research, we will measure the psychological phenotype, risk taking (in a large sample of healthy participants), by taking advantage of a plurality of measurement paradigms, ranging from risky choices between well-defined alternatives in a stable environment to repeated choices between alternatives with unknown consequences. Second, by rendering use of computational modeling techniques (developed in cognitive science and psychology), we will identify the cognitive mechanisms and processes underlying risk taking. Third, we then will relate overt behavior and cognitive processes (identified via modeling) to variations in various genetic polymorphisms and hormonal states, respectively. Consequently, we can comprehensively investigate to what extent differences in risk-taking behavior and in associated cognitive processes can be mapped onto differences in biological properties. Our multi-method and multi-disciplinary approach promises to substantially elucidate the molecular genetic physiology and hormonal underpinnings of people’s risk-taking and inter-individual variations on this important dimension of human behavior. This knowledge will be of crucial importance in developing better diagnostic tools for measuring risk taking, and the identification and treatment of pathological risk taking such as drug addiction or gambling.
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