Smoking, drinking, driving dangerously ? Why do we take risks? How does our environment influence us with regards to risks? How do biological and psychological mechanisms interact? How can theoretical works on risk-taking generate effective educational and prevention campaigns? A comprehensive synthesis of current knowledge of risk in the field of social and human sciences, The psychology of risk answers all these questions and constitutes a true reference book. This book is organized from three perspectives: psychological, biological and contextual. It first of all presents risk-taking and decision-making theories in the field of general and differential psychology, in order to show how they can explain our attitudes relative to risks (driving, psychoactive substances use and abuse, sexual risk behaviors, pathological gambling, self-mutilations, extreme sports, eating disorders, etc). How do we perceive these risks, how do we accept them? Why, for example, are we more afraid of planes than of cars, of GMO?s than of alcohol? ... But it is also necessary to understand how we all act differently when faced with risks. Children, for example, do not master probabilistic reasoning before the age of 11 years-old. Males are more risk-takers than females, and highly masculine men even more so. This study also provides the opportunity to observe how religiosity, social class, gender, age or personality may influence us. How the fact of being sensation seeker, impulsive, anxious, shy or superstitious orientates our behaviors? It then goes to study the influence of biological, neurocognitive and neuroaffective mechanisms on risk-taking and sensation seeking (reward system of limbic areas, cognitive control of prefrontal cortex, role of testosterone, of cortisol or of sleep). And finally, it analyzes the major role played by our social environment in the genesis of risk behaviors, whether they result from the family (genetic factors, emotional links, life-events, imitation, educational style, etc), peers (influences and pressures, selection of friends), media, as well as presenting an anthropological and sociological point of view (rites of passage from childhood to adulthood, adaptive function of risk-taking).
This book was written for psychologists and researchers in the field of risk studies as well as for all professionals interested by the psychological aspects of risk. It will be also useful to everyone concerned with prevention, education and traffic safety.
Jean-Pascal Assailly is psychologist and senior researcher for IFSTTAR (the French National Institute of Traffic Safety Research). As a well-known authority in traffic safety, recognized worldwide, he has conducted research for over 30 years on risk-takings, on the road or in sports, addictions and transgressions. (Imprint: Nova)