Gender Differences and Their Influence on Thrill Seeking and Risk Taking
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
BRONSON, M. E., & Howard, E. (2002). Gender Differences and Their Influence on Thrill Seeking and Risk Taking. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 5. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Gender Differences and Their Influence on Thrill Seeking and Risk Taking

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
Are men more likely than women to take risks? The purpose of this study is to define the differences in males and females related to participation of or willingness to engage in thrill seeking activities. Thrill seeking or risk taking can be divided into different categories. Although we know that men are generally known to take more risks than women, we feel that women may take more risks in certain categories. Data were collected from 206 students enrolled in general psychology courses and analyzed using an independent t test. Significant results show that men are bigger risk takers than women overall, but women took bigger risks in certain categories.

Are men more likely than women to take risks? Are they more likely to take risks in all categories or just specific ones? The purpose of this study is to define the differences in males and females related to participation of or willingness to engage in thrill seeking activities. A study by Wagner (2001) showed that men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as reckless driving, than females. This can be demonstrated by car insurance rates. Male’s rates tend to be higher than female’s rates due to this factor. Two other studies done by Tom L. Pyszczynski (2002) identified that men have a “higher willingness to engage in risky behaviors.” This is precisely what we are interested in. We want to find out if men are actually bigger risk takers than females or if this is just a stereotype given to their gender. We intend to prove or disprove the stereotype toward men and also shed some light on women and risk taking. Thrill seeking or risk taking can be divided into categories. These categories are drinking and drugs, sex, driving, and sensation seeking. Looking at these different categories will help us see if males are risk takers across all areas or just in a few. We will also look at women’s risk taking scores in all of these areas. We feel that men will be bigger risk takers over all but women will surprise us and hold some of the risk taking categories. “Feeling in control is the key to determining whether or not people take risks, according to Adam Goodie of the University of Georgia” (Risk taking influenced by sense of control, claims US psychology professor 2001). He found that people who have a sense of control and are confident are more willing to take risks even if it’s not a good idea. People are more willing to take risks when they feel they have control over the outcome of the situation. Risks can be looked at to see if they are control situations. In situations such as drinking, you have control over what and how much you drink. Men and women should have a closer risk taking score for situations that they can control.


The participants for this study were 211 students from Psychology 101 classes. 71 of the participants were male and 140 were females. The ages of the students ranged from 18 to 45 years of age. There were minimal risks involved in this study. We used a paper and pencil survey. The students who chose to complete this survey received extra credit in their course.

The materials for this study consisted of a paper and pencil survey that was constructed to measure participation of or willingness to engage in thrill seeking activities from an quiz “Are You a Risk Taker”.

Students were asked to fill out the survey with the understanding that the information is confidential. They were asked to answer two additional questions at the end of the survey; those being age and gender. After the data were collected, the responses from the males were compared to the females’ responses to see if there was a difference.

An independent-samples t test was calculated comparing the mean score of male’s risk taking behavior to female’s risk taking behavior and found a significant difference between the means of the two groups (t (209) = -3.77, p = .000). The mean of the male group was significantly lower (m = 48.14, sd = 8.30) than the mean of the female group (m = 52.79, sd = 8.52). Their were several types of risk taking questions that were asked that show in which areas of thrill seeking males differ from the females and how. The results for this are in Table 1.

From the results, one could gather that overall males are bigger risk takers than females. The higher scores for the females show that they are less apt to engage in risk taking behaviors. However, the areas where males claimed to have been involved in or would engage in a certain behavior, one could later try to find out how much of that is talk and no action. As far as we could conclude, the stereotype towards men and risk taking is true. There were many areas were males were bigger risk takers than females, but there were some areas where they were about the same. Contrary to what we believed women were not significantly dominant in any one area. They were more likely to go white water rafting, be hypnotized, and to skip class than the males were. Men and women ranked equal on the following activities: roller coaster riding, quitting their jobs with out another one lined up, ridding on motorcycles, and shoplifting are among some of them. There were many categories where the men were bigger risk takers than women. Men were much more likely to drive 25 mph over the speed limit than women, which Wagner (2001) stated and insurance rates prove. Men were also more likely to drive a motorcycle, get into a car with a stranger, and to get on the roof of a moving car. So not only are men bigger risk takers than women, they also participate in dangerous activities. More men said that they had tried illegal drugs and had gotten behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Men were also more likely to have had unprotected sex than females. Men and women were about equal in most sensation seeking activities, such as roller coaster riding and bungee jumping. There were many limitations in this study. A different sample could be used in future research. We should have tried to get and even number of men and women. Since we only had 71 men to our 140 women our sample was not equal. We might have found different results had we surveyed more men. Another idea for future research would be to go into more detail on the dangerous behaviors. We feel that drinking while intoxicated, illegal drug use, and unprotected sex are things that could be further examined outside of our city. These behaviors could be examined in other cities and at other colleges to see if the same results occur. There behaviors could also be looked at in just males 18 to 24 to see if the same results occurred.

Pyszczynski, Tom L. (Feb. 2002) Gender differences in the willingness to engage in risky behavior: A terror management perspective. Death Studies, 26, 117-142.

Risk taking influenced by sense of control, claims US psychology professor. (Nov. 2001). retrieved on Oct. 10, 2002.

Wagner, Mervyn K. (Jan./Feb. 2001). Behavioral characteristics related to substance abuse and risk-taking, sensation- seeking, anxiety sensitivity and self-reinforcement. Addictive Behaviors, 26, 115-120.



Submitted 11/21/2002 9:49:43 PM
Last Edited 11/21/2002 10:15:10 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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