Choice Under Risk: How Occupation Influences Preferences
van Schaik , P.
In the last decade, a number of studies in the behavioral sciences, particularly in psychology and economics, have explored the complexity of individual risk behavior and its underlying factors. Most previous studies have examined the influences of various socio-economic, cognitive, biological and psychological factors on human decision-making, however, the relationship between the decision-makers’ risk preferences and occupational background has not received much empirical attention. Accordingly, in the current study, we investigated how occupational background, together with decision-making framing (e.g., variations in decision domain, context, presentation of risk, and utility ratios), influence participants’ risk preferences for decision options with equivalent expected utility. Our novel findings indicate that risk preferences may vary among individuals from different occupational backgrounds. As such, when the task was framed in gain terms, participants who mostly deal with health/safety-related risks on a day-to-day basis (high-risk occupations) were predominantly risk-averse (avoiding risky options), while participants who mostly deal with financial/social risks (white-collar occupations) were prone to risk-seeking behavior (avoiding certain options). Specifically, in “high-risk” occupations, participants’ pattern of choices changed from risk-averse in gain scenarios to risk-seeking in loss scenarios. However, the opposite pattern of risk preferences was found in participants with “white-collar” occupations. Our findings indicate that decision-makers’ occupational backgrounds influence risk preferences under some circumstances.