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The Heritability of Attitude Toward Economic Risk

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Songfa Zhong
Affiliation:
Department of Economics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China; Center for Experimental Business Research, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China.
Soo Hong Chew*
Affiliation:
Department of Economics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China; Center for Experimental Business Research, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China; Department of Economics and Department of Business policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore. chew.sh@ust.hk
Eric Set
Affiliation:
Center for Experimental Business Research, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China.
Junsen Zhang
Affiliation:
Department of Economics, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.
Hong Xue
Affiliation:
Applied Genomics Center, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China.
Pak C. Sham
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Genome Research Center, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.
Richard P. Ebstein
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91905, Israel.
Salomon Israel
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91905, Israel.
*
*Address for correspondence: Soo Hong Chew, Department of Economics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clearwater Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Abstract

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The propensity to take risk underpins a wide variety of decision-making behavior, ranging from common ones such as asking for directions and trying out a new restaurant to more substantial economic decisions involving, for instance, one's investment or career. Despite the fundamental role of risk attitude in the economy, its genetic basis remains unknown. Using an experimental economics protocol combined with a classical twin strategy, we provide the first direct evidence of the heritability of economic risk attitude, at 57%. We do not find a significant role for shared environmental effects, a common observation in behavioral genetics that is contrary to commonly held views in economics. Our findings complement recent neuroeconomic studies in enhancing the understanding of the neurobiological basis of risk taking.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009
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