The Science of Risk-Taking

Why smart people do reckless things

The pursuit of a thrill can make us take crazy chances: bungee-jumping, say, or skydiving. And then there's paying for a prostitute when you're a public figure the whole world is watching. In all such cases, excitement is involved--so why does it seduce some of us while leaving others cold?

The answer may start with brain chemistry. In the 1990s, Israeli researchers identified what they thought of as a risk gene, a bit of behavioral coding that changes the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter dopamine, making it easier for some people to respond to stress or anxiety. The higher your threshold for...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!