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Latent Structure of Risk Perception

By Elisa Pabon, James MacKillop, Abraham A. Palmer, Harriet de Wit

Posted 10 Aug 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/389890

Risk-taking behavior affects many aspects of life, including maladaptive behaviors such as illicit substance use, unsafe driving, and risky sexual behavior. Risk-taking has been measured using both self-report measures and behavioral tasks designed for the purpose, but there is little consensus in the associations among measures and our understanding of the latent constructs underlying different forms of risk is limited. In the present study we examined the construct of risk using data from over 1000 young adults who completed measures of risk-taking, including self-reports of perception of risk, propensity to engage in risky behaviors and performance on behavioral tasks designed to measure risk. To examine the latent structure of risk preferences, we conducted a principal component analysis (PCA). The PCA revealed a latent structure of three distinct components of risk-taking behavior: "Lifestyle Risk Sensitivity", "Financial Risk Sensitivity", and "Behavioral Risk Sensitivity", which consisted only of the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART; Lejuez et al., 2002). As expected, risk-taking and perception of risk differed in men and women. Yet, the PCA components were similar in men and women. Future work utilizing additional measures of risk-taking behavior in more heterogeneous samples will help to identify the true biobehavioral constructs underlying these behaviors.

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