The 8 Types of Risk-Takers

Silhouette of a young man walking on a tight rope with blue sky behind him.

There’s really nothing quite like the thrill of taking a risk. For some, the powerfulness of this feeling is enough to be addictive. Others, however, are satisfied merely taking risks on occasion. These people usually do not need to take numerous or great risks in order to feel content. It really all depends on one’s appetite for the sensation. Those on the more extreme end of the spectrum are commonly known and referred to as “adrenaline junkies.” These individuals appear to be addicted to the extreme behaviors related to risk, like bridge-jumping. Others, though, appear to be far more cautious, unwilling to even take minor risks in life such as experimenting with new foods.

What is Risk and How Much Should You Take?

But which is more correct? Should we engage in more or less risk-taking behaviors? As it turns out, risk, in moderation, is healthy in an evolutionary sense, which makes it very beneficial to us. Problems mainly arise when people fall too closely with opposite extremes. For example, people who are overconfident in their abilities have a tendency to minimize threats posed by risk, which can lead to the dreaded “crash” and “burn.” Conversely, those who lack confidence have a tendency to exaggerate threats posed by risk, which can make obstacles seem overwhelming and near impossible to surpass. In most cases, we are forced to make calculated decisions regarding how we feel about a particular situation, and how we plan to approach it.

Thankfully, nowadays, we know quite a few important things about the emotional state as known as risk. One of the things we’ve learned through the years is that regardless of domain (financial, ethical, recreational, health), there appears to be more consistency, rather than inconsistency, when it comes to risk-taking by most individuals. In fact, those who are more inclined towards risk-taking and those who are averse to it tend to compliment each other. However, risk-taking behaviors and whether or not we are more inclined to engage in them is dependent on three factors: age, sex, and class. For example, young people tend to be more risky than those who are older. Furthermore, men tend to take more risks than women. Interestingly, however, research shows that individuals who fall into the category of the educated middle class tend to take less risks than those outside of this classification.

The 8 Different Types of Risk-Takers

Personality factors play a big role as well in determining whether or not one is more inclined towards risk. These characteristics can determine how we perceive and understand risky situations in the first place. These, combined with situational, cultural, and social factors, all contribute to the development of a “risky type.” Such types, identified by a group of British psychologists, lead by Geoff Trickey of PCL, tend to fall into 1 of 8 varieties. Below are the types of risk-taking personalities and their defining qualities, sorted by least risk-taking to most.

  • Wary: These types are cautious, vigilant, and pessimistic. There is a strong fear of failure and change. They value tradition and convention over innovation and change.
  • Prudent: These individuals favor predictability and continuity. Their approach is more careful and conservative, as is their overall outlook.
  • Intense: Characterized by being very passionate and generous, these individuals are also very involved, and oftentimes demonstrate high levels of enthusiasm. On the other hand, however, they can be very self-critical, which can make them less inclined towards risk.
  • Deliberate: This group is more even-tempered and well-prepared. There is a level of self-assuredness, which means that their approach towards risks is governed more by their heads than hearts. They are very systematic and balanced in their approach. They prefer to be systematic rather than radical but they are also not unnerved by such proposals.
  • Spontaneous: This group is described as having average risk tolerance. Their defining characteristic is their tendency to be more reactive and expressive. Unlike their more rational counterparts, these individuals are ruled by their hearts. This makes them more excitable, which also makes them more prone to the ups and downs of high hopes and disappointment.
  • Composed: Positive, resilient, and task-oriented, these individuals are usually not very reckless, but can demonstrate quite a bit of “nerve” if the situation calls for it.
  • Carefree: These are the free thinkers. Above all else they value their independence and autonomy. They have a clear sense of direction, which makes them well-suited for fast-moving situations. This group also enjoys challenging the status-quo, which means that they are frequently seen breaking new ground.
  • Adventurous: The final group on this list, these individuals are more impulsive and excitable. Thrill-seekers by nature, those in this group also tend to be more positive, upbeat, and generally act more boldly. They’re not afraid to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

The Key is Always Moderation

These findings show that risk-taking comes in all shapes and forms, but the key to success and safety when it comes to risk taking, is moderation, regardless of what “type” we might fall under. Studying these different types of risk-takers, though, is proving to be an interesting means of learning more about risks and how we respond to them. This information is not only useful to businesses, who thrive on risk and challenge, but can also help doctors better understand why individuals may seem more inclined to engage in risky behaviors.