Their only shot

By Heidi Grant Halvorson via http://blogs.hbr.org   Article

“Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has written, “For most people, the fear of losing $100 is more intense than the hope of gaining $150.

… it might be more accurate to say that some of us are particularly risk-averse, not because we are neurotic, paranoid, or even lacking in self-confidence, but because we tend to see our goals as opportunities to maintain the status quo and keep things running smoothly. Higgins calls this a prevention focus, associated with a robust aversion to being wide-eyed and optimistic, making mistakes, and taking chances. The rest of us are promotion-focused, see our goals as opportunities to make progress and end up better off.

prevention-focused people work more slowly and deliberately, seek reliability over “coolness” or luxury in products, and prefer conservative investments to higher-yielding but less certain ones. … prevention-focused people are more likely than the promotion-focused to behave ethically and honestly — not because they are more ethical per se, but because they fear that rule-breaking will land them in hot water.

… everything I just told you about prevention-focused people is true when everything is running smoothly — when the status quo is acceptable. … When the prevention-focused feel they are actually in danger of loss — and when they believe that a risky option is the only way to eliminate that loss — it’s a very different story.

… prevention-focused people … will embrace risk when it’s their only shot at returning to status quo. … These are the people who, counter-intuitively, will take the most dangerous risks under the right circumstances.”

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