Safety in Numbers: Why the Mere Physical Presence of Others Affects Risk‐taking Behaviors Apr 22, 2016 By Eileen ChouLoran F. Nordgren Safety in Numbers: Why the Mere Physical Presence of Others Affects Risk‐taking Behaviors As social mammals, being in a group signals a state of relative security. Risk‐taking behavior in other social mammals formed the basis for our prediction that the mere physical presence of others, absent any social interaction, would create a psychological state of security that, in turn, would promote greater risk‐taking behavior. We investigated whether, why, and when the mere physical presence of others affects risk‐taking behaviors in three contexts: acceptance of greater financial volatility, attitudes toward risky gambles, and actual gambling behaviors. Results indicate that people in the mere physical presence of others make riskier decisions than people making identical decisions alone, and that feelings of security were the psychological mechanism behind this effect. Our results also suggest that the effect is contingent on whether people are surrounded by others who belong to the same social group. A meta‐analysis across all studies presented in this research reveals a highly reliable mere‐presence effect. Together, these results demonstrate that the mere physical presence of others can have a potent impact on risk‐taking behaviors. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making Areas of focus Social Psychology Eileen Chou Chou’s research focuses on the organizational, social, and psychological forces that shape individual and group behavior in organizational settings. Read full bio Loran F. Nordgren Related Content Eileen Chou The Goldilocks Contract: The Synergistic Benefits of Combining Structure and Autonomy for Persistence, Creativity, and Cooperation Research Contracts are commonly used to regulate a wide range of interactions and relationships. Yet relying on contracts as a mechanism of control often comes at a cost to motivation. The Link Between Income Inequality and Physical Pain Research Photos: Daily Academic Life at UVA in the COVID-19 Era News University photographers take a look at in-person learning on Grounds, including Batten students and professors in the classroom, during a fall semester shaped by the ongoing pandemic.