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Invited Symposium

Risk Perception and Risk Taking

Sunday, May 24, 2009, 9:00 AM - 10:50 AM
Nob Hill C - D

Valerie  F. Reyna Chair: Valerie F. Reyna
Cornell University
Joseph A. Mikels Chair: Joseph A. Mikels
Cornell University

Risky behavior – from drug use to unprotected sex to financial risk taking – often has serious psychological and societal consequences. Recent research challenges conventional ideas about the relation between risk perception and risk taking, with broad implications for clinical, developmental, social, affective, cognitive, and neuroscientific approaches to behavior. In this symposium, leading scientists shed light on the factors underlying risk perception and risk taking, and explore ways in which adaptive functioning can be enhanced across the life span.

Carl W. Lejuez

Development of a Laboratory-Based Model of Positive and Negative Reinforcement Processes Underlying Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior
Carl W. Lejuez
University of Maryland
Disinhibition and negative affect reduction are commonly cited mechanisms underlying adolescent risk taking, but are rarely considered together in a more comprehensive framework. I will present a model of the development and maintenance of adolescent risk taking rooted in positive and negative reinforcement processes, focusing on behavioral, genetic, and neurobehavioral assessment.

Dan Romer

Impulsive Decision Making in Adolescence: Stereotypes Versus Reality
Dan Romer
University of Pennsylvania
Adolescent risk taking is seen as inevitable and immutable. Several factors unique to this developmental period increase impulsive behavior; however, the capacity to control impulsivity also increases and greater understanding of this process provides direction for ways to increase self-control and enhance adaptive functioning during this developmental period.

Elke U. Weber

Multiple Determinants of Risk Taking
Elke U. Weber
Columbia University
Economic models attribute all individual and group differences in risk taking to a single parameter, risk attitude. I present evidence that risk taking is determined by multiple (perceptual and attitudinal) processes, both hot and cold. This psychological process account can explain situational, gender, and life-span differences in risk-taking.

Valerie F. Reyna

Are Adolescents More Rational Than Adults?: Risk Taking and the Growth of Intuition
Valerie F. Reyna
Cornell University
Recent research on dual processes in judgment and decision making has produced surprising findings about why people take risks and how risky decision making changes with age. Results from laboratory tasks (e.g., framing) and real-life risk taking support fuzzy-trace theory’s predicted developmental shift away from verbatim-based analysis toward gist-based risk avoidance (Reyna & Farley, 2006). Key findings include paradoxical reversals in the relation between risk perception and risk taking, and effects of emotion and disinhibition. Contrary to economic and other standard views of rationality, adults are better than adolescents at avoiding risk because they are more intuitive.

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U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.