Gamble and Walker (2016) investigates the theory that humans adapt their risk-taking behavior on the basis for perceptions of safety. The hypothesis for this study is that risk taking increases in people who are not explicitly aware they are wearing protective equipment. The study argues that this happens for behaviors that “could not be made safer by that equipment” (p. 1). Furthermore, this study suggests that unconscious activation of safety-related concepts primes globally increased risk propensity. For methodology, eighty participants between the ages of 17 and 56 years were recruited in the study, which took place in the University of Bath Department of Psychology’s eye-tracking laboratory. State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) form was used to measure state anxiety. Participants were told that they would complete several computer-based risk-taking measures. They pressed a button to inflate an animated balloon on a computer screen. When the balloon bursts, all the earnings for that trial are lost. In the end, they reported their bicycling and helmet-wearing frequencies. The results of the study showed that wearing a helmet was associated with higher risk-taking scores than wearing a cap. Although anxiety did not change as a function of condition, participants who wore a helmet reported higher sensation-seeking scores than those who wore a cap. Also, the study showed no relationship between risk taking and gender. In other words, while there is an instance of association between risk-taking scores and wearing a helmet, there is an instance of dissociation between risk-taking scores and wearing a cap. Also, there is an instance of dissociation between high sensation-seeking scores and wearing a cap.
Gamble, T., & Walker, I. (2016). Wearing a Bicycle Helmet Can Increase Risk Taking and Sensation Seeking in Adults. Psychological Science,27(2), 289-294. doi:10.1177/0956797615620784