Professor Armin Falk of the University
of Bonn and his German colleagues devised a study to determine if the
motivation to take risks was inherited. They interviewed 3,600 parents
together with their children, who averaged 25 years of age. Each was
graded on overall willingness to take risks from zero (not willing) to
10 (very willing). They were also given scores on subcategories such as
driving, financial matters, sports, career and health.
“With regard to willingness to take
risks, children are astonishingly similar to their parents,” Falk
noted. “This is not only true for the overall estimate, but also for
the different categories. There are people for whom no mogul piste is
too steep when skiing, but who invest their money in secure government
bonds. An identical risk profile can often be found with their
This research indicates that readiness
to take risks runs in families, yet it may not be truly inherited,
since parents shape the beliefs and behaviors of children during their
formative years. Risk-taking and a spirit of adventure were big parts
of the successful Kennedy family. How much is due to heredity and how
much to learning is open to speculation. The same question arises with
daredevil Evel Knievel and his equally fearless son.
This study also reveals that married
individuals parallel each other closely in willingness to take chances.
In this area, opposites do not attract: a daredevil and a scaredy-cat
would not make a good couple. Another interesting finding is that
Americans are more willing to take risks (5.6) compared to the more
cautious Germans (4.4). This is probably due to the fact that
immigrants willing to take a chance settling in a new land populate the
majority of the United States.
Your level of risk taking is probably
already programmed into you. Popular expressions go back and forth on
this conundrum: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” “Think before you
leap.” “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” And the
forever-macho “No guts, no glory.”