Gender Differences in the Willingness to Engage in Risky Behavior: A Terror Management Perspective

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Two studies examined the effects of mortality salience inductions on men and women's willingness to engage in risk-taking behaviors. In Study 1, a sample of American college students (N = 101) were exposed to either a mortality salient or a control condition and then rated their willingness to engage in a variety of risk-taking activities. In Study 2, a sample of Israeli high-school students (N = 106) completed a self-esteem measure, were exposed to either a mortality salient or control condition, and then rated their willingness to use various psychoactive substances that were offered in three different hypothetical scenarios. In both studies, findings indicated that mortality salience led to higher willingness to engage in risky behaviors in men but not in women. Study 2 also revealed that self-esteem moderated the effect of mortality salience on the willingness to use psychoactive substances but only when they were offered by a friend. The discussion offers a terror management perspective of risk-taking behaviors.

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Death Studies, v. 26, issue 2, p. 117-142