The Relationship Between Anxiety And Risk Taking Is Moderated By Ambiguity

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Andrew Smith Ph.D, Associate Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: By definition, risk taking involves uncertainty surrounding potential outcomes. However, risky decisions can vary in the amount of ambiguity about the likelihood of each outcome occurring. The current study tested the hypothesis that the amount of ambiguity in risky-decisions would moderate the relationship between risk taking and anxiety. In this study, participants completed individual difference measures and then a version of the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) with either high or low ambiguity about the likelihood of a negative outcome. As hypothesized, higher levels of anxiety predicted less risk taking in the high ambiguity version of the BART, but anxiety and risk taking were unrelated to one another in the low ambiguity version. This study demonstrates that in order to understand the relationship between anxiety and risk taking, ambiguity level must be taken into account. Furthermore, this finding provides support for cognitive models of anxiety suggesting that anxious individuals interpret negative outcomes as more likely to occur than less anxious individuals.

Additional Information

Smith, A.R., Ebert, E.E., & Broman-Fulks, J.J. (2016). The relationship between anxiety and risk taking is moderated by ambiguity, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 95, 2016. Pages 40-44. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2016
Risk taking, Anxiety, Uncertainty, Ambiguity, Decision making, BART

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