State-dependent risk taking

Barclay, Pat
Mishra, Sandeep
Sparks, Adam Maxwell
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Royal Society of London

Who takes risks, and when? The relative state model proposes two non-independent selection pressures governing risk-taking: need-based and ability-based. The need-based account suggests that actors take risks when they cannot reach target states with low-risk options (consistent with risk-sensitivity theory). The ability-based account suggests that actors engage in risk-taking when they possess traits or abilities that increase the expected value of risk-taking (by increasing the probability of success, enhancing payoffs for success, or buffering against failure). Adaptive risk-taking involves integrating both considerations. Risk-takers compute the expected value of risk-taking based on their state—the interaction of embodied capital relative to one's situation, to the same individual in other circumstances, or to other individuals. We provide mathematical support for this dual-pathway model, and show that it can predict who will take the most risks and when (e.g., when risk-taking will be performed by those in good, poor, intermediate, or extreme state only). Results confirm and elaborate on the initial verbal model of state-dependent risk-taking: selection favors agents who calibrate risk-taking based on implicit computations of condition and/or competitive (dis)advantage, which in turn drives patterned individual differences in risk-taking behavior.

risk-taking, Relative State Model, condition, quality, evolution, behavioural ecology, behavioral ecology, game theory