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Dopamine and Risk Choices in Different Domains: Findings among Serious Tournament Bridge Players

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  • Dreber, Anna

    (Institute for Financial Research, Stockholm and Harvard University)

  • Rand, David G.

    (Harvard University)

  • Wernerfelt, Nils

    (Harvard University and Toulouse School of Economics)

  • Garcia, Justin R.

    (Binghamton U, SUNY)

  • Lum, J. Koji

    (Binghamton U, SUNY)

  • Zeckhauser, Richard

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Individuals differ significantly in their willingness to take risks, partly due to genetic differences. We explore how risk taking behavior correlates with different versions of the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4). We focus on risk taking in the card game contract bridge, and economic risk taking as proxied by a financial gamble. We also explore self-reported general risk taking, and self-reported behavior in risk-related activities. Our participants are serious tournament bridge players, which gives them substantial experience in risk taking. We find some evidence that men with a 7-repeat allele (7R+) of DRD4 take more overall risk in bridge than individuals without this allele (7R-), and strong evidence that 7R+ men take more economic risk in an investment game. Interestingly, these relationships are not found in the women in our study. Although the number of 7R+ women in our sample is low, our results may reflect a gender difference in how the 7R+ genotype affects behavior. Bridge masterpoints measure past success, thus reflecting playing skill and experience. We show that masterpoint level modulates the effect of the DRD4 gene in men in a highly important manner. We find that higher ranked 7R+ men take significantly more good risks and significantly fewer bad risks than other men, whereas the opposite is found for less-expert 7R+ men. This is the first study to distinguish between advantageous and disadvantageous risk taking. We identify a strong interaction among desirable risk taking behavior, measured success, and genetic variation. Considering other risk measures, we find no difference between 7R+ and 7R- individuals in general risk taking or in any of a number of other risk-related activities. Our results indicate that the dopamine system plays an important role in explaining individual differences in risk taking in bridge and economic risk taking among men. Little relationship is found in other activities involving risk or among women.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp10-034.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp10-034

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  1. Johnson, Eric J, et al, 1993. " Framing, Probability Distortions, and Insurance Decisions," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 35-51, August.
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  14. Jeffrey Carpenter & Justin Garcia & J. Lum, 2011. "Dopamine receptor genes predict risk preferences, time preferences, and related economic choices," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 233-261, June.
  15. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Charness, Gary & Gneezy, Uri & Imas, Alex, 2013. "Experimental methods: Eliciting risk preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 43-51.
  2. Vanessa Mertins & Andrea B. Schote & Jobst Meyer, 2013. "Variants of the Monoamine Oxidase A Gene (MAOA) Predict Free-riding Behavior in Women in a Strategic Public Goods Experiment," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201302, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
  3. Wernerfelt, Nils Christian & Rand, David Gertler & Lum, J. Koji & Zeckhauser, Richard Jay & Dreber, Anna & Garcia, Justin, 2011. "The Dopamine Receptor D4 Gene (DRD4) and Self-Reported Risk Taking in the Economic Domain," Scholarly Articles 5347066, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Jonas Fooken & Markus Schaffner, 2013. "The role of psychological and physiological factors in decision making under risk and in a dilemma," QuBE Working Papers 010, QUT Business School.

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