Act Boldly: Important Life Decisions, Courage, and the Motivated Pursuit of Risk

David Gal*, Derek D. Rucker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do people respond to risk in important life decisions? For example, when presented with the opportunity to leave one's job to start a business-a risky proposition for most-or to stay put-often a safer course of action-what do people choose? The current work explores the idea that important life decisions offer people the opportunity to display a highly valued psychological characteristic: courage. Specifically, important life decisions often combine the critical preconditions for a risky choice to be viewed as courageous-fear, purpose, agency, and the availability of risky options with an appropriate risk/reward tradeoff. Because of this combination of features, to the extent people desire to be courageous, they are motivated to choose risky options in important life decisions. The present perspective offers a counterpoint to prior work on decision making that assumes individuals are generally risk averse. Seven primary and 2 supplemental studies provide evidence in support of this perspective. Implications for understanding decision making in important decisions, the value of courage, and the motivated pursuit of risk are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Courage
  • Important decisions
  • Risk-seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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