Four studies demonstrate the importance of self-regulatory mechanisms for understanding risk-seeking behavior under loss. Findings suggest that risk seeking becomes a motivational necessity under 3 conditions: (a) when an individual is in a state of loss; (b) when the individual is in a prevention-focused regulatory state (E. T. Higgins, 1997); and (c) when the risky option alone offers the possibility of eliminating loss. In situations involving loss, prevention motivation but not promotion motivation (whether measured or manipulated) was uniquely associated with behaviors that served the motivation to maintain the status quo. When the risky option offered the sole possibility of returning to the status quo, prevention motivation predicted increased risk seeking. However, when a more conservative option was available that also offered the possibility to return to the status quo, prevention motivation predicted risk aversion. When neither option offered the possibility to return to the status quo, prevention motivation was not associated with risky choice. The authors discuss the benefits of complementing existing accounts of risky decision making under loss with regulatory focus motivational mechanisms.
Scholer, Abigail, Xi Zou, Kentaro Fujita, Steven J. Stroessner, and E. Tory Higgins. "When risk-seeking becomes a motivational necessity." Journal of Personality and Social Science 99, no. 2 (August 2010): 215-31.
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