Reckless Gambles and Responsible Ventures: Racialized Prototypes of Risk-Taking

James E. Wages*, Sylvia P. Perry, Allison L. Skinner-Dorkenoo, Galen V. Bodenhausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Risk-taking is sometimes admired and sometimes disparaged. In this research, we examine previously unexplored questions concerning how membership in social groups is related to expectations and perceptions of risk-taking. We propose that prototypes of risk-takers incorporate racial associations. We conducted five studies (NTotal = 1,603, predominantly White residents of the United States) examiningwhether prototypes of risk-takers—primarily reckless and responsible ones—activate racial stereotypes and discrimination. We first focused on whether participants perceive Black (vs. White) men as more likely to engage in risk-taking, broadly construed (Study 1). Next, we tested whether the trait attributions (Studies 2 and 3) and mental images constructed with the reverse correlation task (Study 3) of reckless risk-takers are more stereotypically Black (and less White) than responsible risk-takers. In Study 4, we employed an investment game to investigate participants’ willingness to trust targets we depicted using the racialized mental images of reckless and responsible risk-takers derived from Study 3. A final study examined whether thinking about reckless risk-takers evokes Black stereotypes broadly, including even positive stereotype content. Findings confirmed that reckless risk-takers were imagined as more phenotypically Black and as having more stereotypically Black traits (both positive and negative), compared with responsible risk-takers. Theoretical and practical implications for this novel stereotype content in the domain of risk are discussed

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • race
  • recklessness
  • responsibility
  • risk-taking
  • stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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