What Makes You Take Risks? Science Says It's More Than Just Your Personality

No one ever said taking risks was easy. I mean, anything I consider a real risk has to terrify me, even as someone who doesn't love change in general. But new research has come to show that there might be more to stepping outside your comfort zone than sheer willpower or a love of walking on the wild side. What makes you take risks might also have something to do with your overall environment, according to a new study, and in particular, the overall "mood" of the place you call home — which, believe it or not, can actually be tracked via social media.

It's pretty fascinating, really. According to the study's press release, researchers from McGill University in Montreal and the University of Pennsylvania used automated technology to figure out the “sentiment” of around five million posts on Twitter between 2012 and 2013. They did this in six different cities in the U.S., including New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and by collecting the data, the researchers were able to figure out "the mood of [each] city on any given day," as per the study's press release.

Who knew you could learn so much from a couple of tweets, right?

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But here's where things get really interesting: According to the study's press release, after the researchers were able to understand the mood of a community, they wanted to see what it actually meant for the people in that area, and more specifically, how the overall vibe of a city might affect a single person's willingness to take risks.

The study, published in the scientific journal PLOS One, found that when something unexpected and good happens in a community — like a home team wins a game, or the sun comes out after days of clouds and rain — people are apparently more willing to hedge their bets on something risky. Huh.

In order to come to that conclusion, the researchers looked at the purchase rate of lottery tickets in each city in relation to each area's respective mood, and found that there was a correlation between these two things, such that when the community's mood was more positive, lotto ticket purchases appeared to go up.

Honestly, I always assumed some people are risk-takers and some just aren't. But apparently we humans are a complicated lot, aren't we?

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However, according to counselor and relationship expert David Bennett, my original assumption wasn't entirely wrong. In terms of personality, he tells Elite Daily, people who are extroverted, open to experiences, and low in conscientiousness are often the biggest risk-takers. "So, the outgoing person who is always up for new things — and who thinks about consequences after the fact — is more likely to take a risk than a quiet, habitual person who overthinks everything," Bennett explains.

What's more, a 2016 study published in The Journal of Early Adolescence showed that your friends can also potentially influence how much of a risk-taker you are, and Bennett agrees: "If you hang out with risk-takers," he says, "you’ll be more likely to do so yourself. This is particularly true of guys who are in a group together."

But listen, while there's nothing wrong with playing the slots or buying a scratch-off lotto ticket from time to time, don't forget that there plenty of other little ways to step outside your comfort zone on an everyday basis. Imagine the adrenaline rush you might get if you ask your crush out for coffee, or send one of your poems to a literary magazine.