The heritability of attitude toward economic risk

Songfa Zhong, Soo Hong Chew, Eric Set, Junsen Zhang, Hong Xue, Pak C. Sham, Richard P. Ebstein, Salomon Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)103-107
Number of pages5
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Lu Yunfeng, Wang Rui, Wu Qingyu, Xia Wei Guang, Ye Xiaofeng, Zhang Xing, Zhong Yongdong, Zhou Ding Rong, and the organizers of 2007 Beijing Twin Festival for assistance in conducting the experiments. We are also grateful to Bao Te, Robin Chark, Chen Jianhuan, Chen Songnian, Nicholas Hon, Hong Fuhai, Tanjim Hossain, Ming Hsu, Stacey Cherny, Li King King, Petter Little, Ryo Okui, Qu Xiangyu, Wang Pengfei, Xue Fei, Jeffrey Wong, Xie Danyang, Zhang Wenzhang and Zhao Cunyou for helpful comments. Financial support from the Research Grants Council, Hong Kong, as well as the Hong University of Science and Technology is also grateful acknowledged.


  • Behaviour genetics
  • Economic risk
  • Experimental economics


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