A Mother’s Touch and its affect on Risk Behaviour

Physical contact can influence decision-making behaviour and willingness to take risks.  This is the result of study by a team led by Jonathan Levav at Columbia University Business School.

Jonathan Levav

In a paper called Physical Contact and Financial Risk-Taking, co-authored with Jennifer Argo, Levav found that students asked to make a decision between a safe option and a higher risk alternative were more likely to choose the riskier bet if a female researcher had patted them briefly (1 second) on the back of the shoulder while briefing them, compared to when there was no physical contact.

This was true for both men and women.  A male researcher patting them while he briefed them, appeared to have no impact on choice.

Asian mother and child: Image by din! Click for Flickr PageLevav speculates that the woman’s touch kindled memories of a supportive mother.

To confirm the hypothesis, they asked other students to make financial decisions after doing a writing exercise.

Half wrote about a time when they felt supported, and the rest wrote about a time of insecurity.  The latter group were particularly affected by the shoulder pats from a female researcher.

The “so what?”

Please beware physical contact from a woman before making a decision or assessing risk.

RiskHappensJacketCopies of Risk Happens! Manage risk and avoid failure in business projects are back from the printer and I am eagerly awaiting my copies.  They go on sale on or around 15 July and you can order them now:

Amazon UK
Amazon.com (soon, I hope)

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