I have said many times in books, articles and speeches that there is no ideal level of risk inclination – no perfect Risk Quotient (RQ). The risk adverse can make a vital contribution by being more cautious and deliberative. The risk inclined can help others overcome uncertainties and provide a valuable bias for action.
But it is reasonable to wonder to what extent a person’s RQ is determined by genetics as opposed to by life experiences – the old nature versus nurture discussion.
You may have heard about the “risk-taking gene.” This is the research that indicates that a certain variation on the DRD4 gene correlates to a greater inclination to pursue risky activities and seek higher levels of physical stimulation.
Now there is more research that indicates that certain physiological traits influence our risk inclination. Researchers at University College London, the University of Sydney, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University and Yale University have determined that the density of the cells in one part of our brain influences our comfort level with financial risks. The thicker our right posterior parietal cortex the more we can tolerate financial risk. If it is thinner, the opposite is true.
Is this interesting? Yes. Is this important? Only somewhat.
The important point is that we all have different innate RQs. They can change significantly due to life experiences and our current situation. But research is showing that we are born with physical elements that influence our personal relationship with risk-taking.
How does this impact you? The next time you are at a loss to understand how someone sees the exact same facts and circumstances so differently than you, remember that some of the difference may be due to how you both were created. That may make it easier to deal constructively with the variance.
More on this topic is available at: http://online.wsj.com/articles/so-you-think-youre-a-risk-taker-1414207254