What Factors Lead to Someone Making Risky and Impulsive Decisions?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

walking tightrope

There are a variety of reasons why someone may make impulsive decisions; risky choices may be related to theft, drunk driving, violence, sexual promiscuity, vandalism, substance abuse, and more. Actions towards these things can cause a person to lose family, friends, security from a job, housing, health, money, etc. The FBI states that approximately 1,197,704 violent crimes were committed in 2015; another 2015 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that 15.1 million adults age 18 or older have an alcohol use disorder – and these are just a couple of the activities listed above. What, then, factors into someone making impulsive, risky decisions?

Much of research has paired the discussion of impulsivity and riskiness with personality – so far there are studies that have explored neuroticism, extraversion, venturesome-ness, and psychoticism. As it comes to personality traits, researchers have theorized several things:

  • Impulsiveness (not planning things and being outgoing or energetic) is highly correlated with neuroticism (tendency to have anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc.) and psychoticism (aggressiveness and interpersonal hostility)
  • Impulsivity is an act of novelty seeking, which involves finding thrill in seeking new, original, and exciting things
  • Both positive or negative emotions can motivate someone to act but impulsivity can slow down or inhibit a person’s behavior towards thinking critically and cautiously about completing that action

Because impulsivity can be subjective as it takes place in various contexts, science provides bits of information that can help us to understand personality, but the ways in which personality interacts with risky behavior is varied. Mental disorders that inhibit someone from planning carefully and thinking critically before making decisions could also be a factor in risk taking – disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and more may propel someone to behave impulsively, especially if medication is not being taken.

Live Science states that it could simply be due to the way some individuals’ brains are structured:

“Researchers examined more than 1,200 healthy adults with no history of psychiatric disorders or substance abuse were examined; the participants who were more inclined to act impulsively or seek thrills had a thinner cortex – the wrinkly outer layer of gray matter – around the brain regions involved in decision making and self-control.”

It seems that a variety of factors are at play; one’s personality and brain structure seem to have a significant impact on why one person may be more impulsive than other.





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