Risk Taking

Racing. Rock climbing. Parachuting. Fighting. They’re all risky, potentially dangerous behaviors—and ones that even if you avoid them in real life, you may still enjoy experiencing vicariously through a movie or video game. And while you may never stop pursuing thrills and fun, your likelihood to take major risks is shaped by two major things: your personality, and your age.

The reality is, young people take a lot more risks. That’s why rental car companies often restrict or charge a premium to drivers younger than 25—and very few murders are committed by people over 40.

So why is it typically young people who do crazy things and live life on the edge? Because the frontal lobes of our brains continue to develop during the late teens and early twenties. The prefrontal cortex is the brain area in charge of planning, decision-making, and anticipating cause and effect. Whether it’s sports, drugs, sex, or distracted driving, the worst-case scenario is usually far out of our minds. It’s easy to think, “It won’t happen to me.”

How can you make smart—and wise—choices?