Bridging the Gap Between Psychology and Biology: A Behavioral Genetics Quasi-Experimental Method to Understand Personality, Risk Perception, and Physical Risk-Taking Behavior


Despite what are often serious consequences, risk-taking behavior related to drug use, sexual practices, and adventure sports is common but uneven—some individuals are highly disposed to novelty seeking and are risk prone, whereas others are quite the opposite. To study risk taking, I developed an undergraduate-centered interdisciplinary research program to address single genetic variations, personality traits, and risk perceptions that may contribute to individual variation in these behaviors. This methodological approach allows for a connection between biological and psychological levels of analysis. Practical and ethical constraints led to development of a quasi-experimental design to gauge the impact of pre-existing participant variables (genotype, gender, religiosity) on the outcome variables (risk taking and risk perception). To offer insight into the real-world application of these research methods, I describe the benefits and costs of using this interdisciplinary behavioral genetics approach; I also address the challenges and setbacks my group experienced and the lessons learned along the way.

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