The influence of contagious disease threat on general risk-taking tendency

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Muhammad Kasheer
Myungwoo Nam
Cite this article:  Kasheer, M., & Nam, M. (2021). The influence of contagious disease threat on general risk-taking tendency. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 49(8), e8133.


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We conducted two studies to investigate the effects of the threat of a contagious disease on people’s tendency to engage in risk-taking behaviors that are not directly related to the disease, such as investment decisions. In Study 1 we demonstrated that individual differences in germ aversion influenced risk-taking tendency. Participants with relatively high germ aversion were less likely than were those with relatively low germ aversion to engage in risk-taking behaviors encompassing the ethical, investment, gambling, recreational, health, and social domains. In Study 2 we replicated the results of Study 1 in a different setting and examined the underlying process by which perceived disease threat inhibits risk taking. The findings suggest that the threat of disease-induced negative affect decreased risk-taking tendencies. This implies that precautionary behavior activated by disease-threat salience can extend beyond the health domain to a broader range of situations.

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