A Domain-Specific Risk-Taking (DOSPERT) Scale

Author of Tool: 

Blais, Ann-René and Weber, Elke U.

Key references: 

Blais, Ann-René and Weber, Elke U. (2006). "A Domain-Specific Risk-Taking (DOSPERT) Scale for Adult Populations." Judgment and Decision Making 1(1): 33-47.

Weber, E. U., Blais, A.-R., Betz, E. (2002). A Domain-specific risk-attitude scale: Measuring risk perceptions and risk behaviors. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 15, 263-290.

Primary use / Purpose: 

A validated measure of domain-specific risk-taking.

Background: 

People differ in the way they resolve decisions involving risk and uncertainty, and these differences are often described as differences in risk attitude. In the expected utility framework and its variants, including prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979; Tversky & Kahneman, 1992), such apparent differences in risk attitude are modeled by utility functions that differ in shape, with different degrees of concavity (convexity) to explain risk aversion (seeking). Risk attitude is the parameter that differentiates between the utility functions of different individuals (e.g., Pratt, 1964) and is intended as nothing more than a descriptive label for the concavity or convexity of the utility function. Popular interpretations of risk attitude, however, often consider it to be a personality trait (Weber, 1998).

Empirical investigations have shown systematic individual, group, and cultural differences in perceptions of the riskiness of risky choice options (Bontempo, Bottom, & Weber, 1997; Slovic, 1998; Weber, 1988). A smaller number of studies have also documented group differences in the perception of perceived benefits (e.g., Johnson, Wilke, & Weber, 2004). After accounting for differences in the perception of the risk or returns of choice alternatives, however, people's perceived-risk attitude - defined as their willingness to trade off units of perceived risk for units of perceived return - has shown considerable cross-group and cross-situational consistency (Weber, 1998, 2001). The domain-specificity of risk taking thus seems to arise primarily from differences in the perception of the risks (and possibly benefits) of choice alternatives in different content domains, while the trait (or true attitude towards risk) that shows consistency across situations lies in the evaluation of risk (as it is perceived) as something that is either desirable (i.e., worth giving up units of return for) or undesirable (i.e., something that needs to be compensated by units of return) (Weber, 2001).

The Domain-Specific Risk-Taking (DOSPERT) Scale, that allows researchers and practitioners to assess both conventional risk attitudes (defined as the reported level of risk taking) and perceived-risk attitudes (defined as the willingness to engage in a risky activity as a function of its perceived riskiness) in five commonly encountered content domains, i.e., ethical, financial (further decomposed into gambling and investment), health/safety, social, and recreational decisions.

Psychometrics: 

The scale has been used and validated, and its factor structure replicated in a wide range of settings and populations.  In addition to adequate internal-consistency reliability estimates, Weber et al. (2002) reported moderate test-retest reliability estimates and provided evidence for the factorial and convergent/discriminant validity of the scores with respect to constructs such as sensation seeking, dispositional risk taking, intolerance for ambiguity, and social desirability. Construct validity was also assessed via correlations with the results of a risky gambling task as well as with tests of gender differences.

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