Date of Award

Spring 5-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Applied Developmental Psychology



Major Professor

Robert D. Laird, Ph.D.


This study tested dual-process decision-making models as predictors of between-person and within-person variation in risk-taking behavior. Additionally, the study integrated trait perspectives on self-control and impulsivity with decision-making processes to explain risk-taking. Participants were 580 college students ages 18 and older (M age = 20.45, range = 18 to 52 years). This study involved three parts. First, participants completed a survey assessing decision-making processes, self-control, impulsivity and risk-taking behavior. Second, a sub-set of participants completed laboratory-based measures of self-control and impulsivity. Third, participants completed a longitudinal online assessment of their risk-taking behavior. Dual-process models explained concurrent risk-taking, but only the reasoned decision-making process explained longitudinal risk-taking. The dual decision-making processes appear to operate through similar pathways, with components from each pathway exhibiting indirect effects through the other pathway. Impulsivity was linked to higher levels of risk-taking because of higher levels of behavioral intentions and willingness, whereas self-control was linked to lower levels of risk-taking because of lower levels of behavioral intentions. Between-person effects were as common as within-person effects, so future researchers are urged to consider decision-making processes averaged across forms of risk-taking and within each form of risk-taking. Altering decision-making pathways may be an effective way to intervene with individuals at high risk for engaging in risk-taking behavior.


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