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Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2009 May;13(2):109-28. doi: 10.1177/1088868308330104. Epub 2009 Feb 4.

Threat to life and risk-taking behaviors: a review of empirical findings and explanatory models.

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School of Social Work, University of Haifa, Israel.


This article reviews the literature focusing on the relationship between perceived threat to life and risk-taking behaviors. The review of empirical data, garnered from field studies and controlled experiments, suggests that personal threat to life results in elevated risk-taking behavior. To account for these findings, this review proposes a number of theoretical explanations. These frameworks are grounded in divergent conceptual models: coping with stress, emotion regulation, replenishing of lost resources through self-enhancement, modifications of key parameters of cognitive processing of risky outcomes, and neurocognitive mechanisms. The review concludes with a number of methodological considerations, as well as directions for future work in this promising area of research.

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