Do level rewards influence risky behaviors? 



In the course of history, it is evident that humans have evolved or progressed thru risk taking. As a matter of fact, it can be concluded that human activities can be assumed as comprising a component of risk. For instance, as a child, when you take your first step, you risk falling down, when you try a new diet, you risk being sickened; as you ride a motorcycle, you risk falling over (Hardy, 2013). In summary, humans and risk are tangled together and that is why it is not surprising that, in spite of the risk-averse people that seem to have lately evolved, numerous individuals still crave danger, enjoyment, and risk. This element of risk can be clearly be illustrated in the recent thriving of high-risk actions for example, bungee jumping and skydiving (Hardy, 2013).

However, the long-term assessment at this point is, people who take part in high-risk undertakings form a distinct uniform group referred to as sensation seekers (Hardy, 2013). And yet, there are a number of risk takers who seem to be inspired by something extra. For instance, there is the story of George Mallory’s determined quest to reach the peak of Mount Everest in the early 1920s, which was the main factor that led to his death in the year 1924, this can barely be deliberated as sensation seeking (Hardy, 2013). According to Zuckerman, sensation seekers show an enthusiasm to take risks with the sole interest of experiencing the sensation rewards of sensation-seeking actions for instance, drug use or dangerous driving (Zuckerman, 1994). However, according to other scholars, sensation seeking is evidently an unrewarding theoretical viewpoint from which to comprehend the motives for such practices (Hardy, 2013).


In the world of gambling, the primary motivation for any gambler is to win money, it is largely supposed that the related thrill and enjoyment achieves significant conditioned inducement and underpinning roles that motivate the behavior. Increases in physiological stimulation, especially in heart rate, have been established in numerous studies of gambling behavior both in the normal environment along with the laboratory setting (Wulfert, 2011). Equated with research conducted in the real-world setting, laboratory research studies typically allow only better experimental regulation of the variables which are under analysis. However, there is a major limitation of laboratory analogs (Wulfert, 2011). This experiments normally fail to mimic the real-world of gambling because they may not effectively model the level of reward and mainly not the level of risk comprised in actual gambling. Therefore, the outcomes of analog studies may be of partial value in trying to understand the role of arousal and pleasure linked with gambling (Wulfert, 2011).

In spite of the limitation in laboratory studies, analyzing the topic on reward expectancies in analog research of gambling, laboratory studies have persuasively revealed that there is an association of reward for both physiological arousal and psychological enjoyment or excitement (Wulfert, 2011). For instance, in a conducted research, the participants typically showed considerably higher heart rates in a gambling model particularly when they play for an opportunity of winning actual money as opposed to valueless points (Wulfert, 2011). Presently, there are only two known theories which try to show the reasons for risky decision making amongst gambles where the probabilities and values of the different probable results are well stated (Miller, 1969). One of these theories is the one forwarded by Edwards.


This theory by Edwards does not concern us directly as individuals, however, it assumes that a decision maker assesses (either objectively or subjectively) every single gamble exclusively in terms of its anticipated value to him or her. The outcome of this assessment basically produces an ordering on every set of gambles which match the decision maker’s preference or inclination ordering amongst the set’s gambles (Edwards, 1962). The second theory, which mainly concerns us as individuals, assumes that the decision maker assesses a gamble in no less than two ways: in terms of anticipated value and in terms of observed riskiness (Coombs, 1967). Here, a desired order is achieved by joining the two kinds of assessments in some fashion.

In a nutshell, a number of features of a gamble may define its riskiness, for example, the chance that a defeat will occur, the complete extent of possible loss or the difference of possible results. Therefore, one might assume that with a gamble’s anticipated value held constant, its riskiness is definitely linked to every single of these risk determiners (Miller, 1969). As a matter of fact, for two-result or outcome gambles, these determiners are also linked to each other, thereby generating an incomplete confounding amongst them (Miller, 1969). The above theories (Decision theories) mainly direct themselves to the likelihood of choice but only at a single point in time, thereby categorized as theories of static behavior. This is because they reveal little about the varying patterns of selections over time.

In Atkinson’s theory on the motivation factors of risk taking behavior, he forwards that, an individual’s inclination to pursue achievement on any particular undertaking is a multiplicative role of his or her intrinsic motivation to pursue achievement. Based on the above argument, it can therefore, be concluded that reward does influence behavior.



Coombs, C. H. (1967), some risky decision theories. Paper presented at the meeting of the Psychometric Society, Madison, Wisconsin.

Edwards, W. (1962), Subjective probabilities inferred from decisions. Psychological Review, 69, 109-135.

Hardy, L., (2013), Great Expectations: Different High-Risk Activities Satisfy Different Motives: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 105, No. 3, 458–475.

Miller, L. (1969), choice among equal expected value alternatives: sequential effects of winning probability level on risk preferences: Journal o/ Experimental Psychology, Vol. 79, No. 3, 419-423.

Wulfert, E. (2011), The Effects of Realistic Reward and Risk on Simulated Gambling Behavior: The American Journal on Addictions, 20: 120–126.

Zuckerman, M. (1994). Behavioral expressions and biosocial bases of sensation seeking. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.



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