Risk Lovers – What Makes Them Tick?

“The greatest risk of all is the risk of riskless living.”

Steven Covey

Parachute Jumping

A fascinating article in Psychology Today explores the psychological makeup of the risk-taker personality. If you love the thrill of taking a gamble on something, whether it’s facing a physical challenge or following your instinct on a financial deal, you might just be that class of person who relishes a risk and revels in reaping the reward.

For some individuals, the danger is as exhilarating as it is intoxicating. Sensation seekers pursue new experiences that are as complex as they are intense: they are willing to take risks for the sake of the thrills they get when participating in daring activities. Some scientific studies into this state of mind, such as one at the University of Exeter, have revealed that men are more likely than women to be risk-takers and that they are more impulsive when it comes to seeking new sensations.

Winning Cup

The dopamine effect

You might know that your brain has a ‘reward pathway’ containing dopamine receptors. Those receptors are involved in how you process experiences and are boosted when you feel pleasure and motivation. They also influence learning, understanding, and dexterity. Scientific evidence suggests that risk-takers enjoy substantial hits of dopamine every time they embark on a new, daring experience, whether that’s skydiving, closing a high-risk deal.

Participating in these sorts of activities makes risk-lovers feel great because they are experiencing the kind of excitement they really enjoy.

The ultimate answer to the risk-taker personality seems to lie in neuroscience; it’s the ‘thrill of the chase’ and the resulting dopamine effect on the brain that makes those risk-lovers tick.

Profile of a risk taker

Risk Graph

Examining why people take risks reveals some surprising results. If you’re feeling happy, it seems you are more willing to trust people, be generous and take risks. So many risk takers are naturally contented individuals.

Daylight and time of year also play a part. Biological changes can make you more risk adverse on shorter days, which may be why the cheerful bright lights of downtown city casinos work for lovers of risk.

Some people inherit a gene that predicts their personality and their tendency towards taking risks. Inheriting the longer version of this DRD4 gene means your love of risk is about 25 percent higher than someone with the shorter version.

Risk lovers tend to be night owls rather than those fond of being up with the lark. They are more impulsive, and keen to seek out new sensations. Risk-taking behavior has (in part) been evolved to enhance a persons ability to attract a mate.

Taking risks is habit forming and those who do so are not deterred by operating in a safer environment. One device introduced to protect skydivers from parachute malfunctions was so successful that the divers began to attempt trickier stunt landings, apparently to impress their friends by increasing the risks – a sort of risk compensation.

It seems likely that we all have an appetite for a certain degree of risk. However, in extreme cases, the true risk lover will do everything they can to satisfy it. 

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
TS Elliot

Extreme sports

Some demanding physical activities can risk life and limb, and people who engage in what has become known as extreme sports thrill to the challenges the activities present. Think skydiving, rock climbing, whitewater sports, BASE jumping, and extreme biking to name a few. You can even tune in to a channel devoted to extreme sports for regular updates on the latest, most dangerous, sports activities.

Then there are the risk takers who make it their life’s work. Professional stunt performers in movies, for example, take part in dangerous activities that regular actors won’t touch. Many of the scenes you see involving fights, martial arts, high diving, sub aqua and driving at high speed are performed by professional risk-takers who get an adrenaline rush from completing the challenge without injuring themselves. In the same way, professional racing drivers risk injury and death to shave a few seconds off their lap time so they can be in pole position for a race.

To explore taking part in exciting activities you need to be sure you’re dealing with reputable establishments. If you want to try out rock climbing or bouldering, for instance, you should check out a climbing training program and make sure you visit a climbing gym where the professional staff members are expert at working with newbie climbers.

Alternative lifestyles

Bike Jump

If physical challenges don’t attract you, it may be that you’re one of those risk takers who seek out novel experiences in a different way. Perhaps you like to experiment with drugs or alcohol, for instance, or have unsafe sex? That is an example of how people who love taking a risk can create significant problems related to public health, for people other than themselves.

Some risk lovers undertake physical challenges to ‘cheat death,’ so the attraction of alternative lifestyle activities is related to the notion of ‘beating the system.’ The same applies to high-risk stockbroking and gambling, where your money rather than your life is, literally, at stake.

An academic study by the University of Plymouth that links risk-taking to creativity presents an interesting association. It is based on the fact that artists and musicians, for example, have to be prepared to put their work in front of an audience with a distinct possibility of getting a highly critical reaction.

Our ancestors were faced with a hazardous environment where they were forced to take greater risks in order to find shelter, food and sexual partners.”
Journal of Risk Research

Money, money, money


You might think to play the stock market or gamble is wholly money oriented. However, the experts reckon they have more to do with the thrills and excitement of risk-taking than counting the pennies.

For example, a lottery is based on a scientific rather than a random system. That means it was designed to ensure that, sooner or later, the average player will lose their money. The experience for the risk-taker is bound up in ‘beating the system’ and winning against the odds.

Just as the racing driver loves the thrill of pursuing the elusive first place in a contest, so the online player loves the excitement surrounding the possibility that they just might win lots of money. Of course, win rates vary according to the bids you make and your preferred environment – trading on stocks is different from placing sports bets or playing at an online casino.


Skill versus luck

Casino chips

Stunt performers, racing drivers and people who love extreme sports improve their skill levels through practice. The same is true of those who play the stock market or visit online casinos. There are certain stock market bids or games that involve skill on the part of the player as well as luck, so an experienced risk-taker has a better chance of winning in those circumstances. However, no matter how experienced you are the thrill of starting each new play is always paramount to a real risk-taker.

If you do decide to try your hand at playing at an online game seek out a well-established one that supports and encourages first-timers. Upon first visiting an online casino the variety of games available and the many options can be somewhat bewildering for inexperienced players. However, the better sites offer lots of helpful support and useful information via their blogs to assist new players. When you decide to play, you will find a varied selection of fun and exclusive slots and other favorite games. As a new player, you’ll be given a chance to play for a bonus win, totally free of charge. The amount you win can then be spent on your games of choice. That is a great way to enjoy all the thrills and excitement of playing online, including earning bonuses, winning jackpots and taking advantage of any special promotions.

Risk lovers: 

  • Positively enjoy the excitement of participating in activities that expose them to danger
  • Have brains that respond to challenges by boosting dopamine in preparation for an adrenaline rush
  • Are generally happy, impulsive people who love a good time
  • Follow mottos such as “Luck favors the brave”, “With Risk comes the chance of failure, but more importantly, a chance of greatness” and “Love is all about taking risks”
  • May have inherited an extra-long gene that urges them to get into the habit of taking risks
  • Who enjoy physical challenges know they are endangering themselves and do it anyway
  • Take on the risks and challenges as the mean of achieving success
  • Can create serious problems for themselves and others by engaging in unsafe practices
  • Who dream of winning huge riches with little effort aim to beat the system
  • Develop extra skills with practice, although some risky activities are purely a matter of luck
  • Always remember that taking risks in life can be one of the most pleasing things to do.

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