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 Journal of Behavioral Decision Making Areas of focus Social Psychology Eileen Chou Eileen Chou, associate dean for academic affairs and Batten Family Bicentennial Teacher-Scholar Leadership Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, researches 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 Once bitten, twice shy: The negative spillover effect of seeing betrayal of trust. Research Our research demonstrates that people who had perceived a recent betrayal were significantly less likely to trust a new entity that shared nominal group membership with the previous trust transgressor. By systematically investigating whether, why, and to what extent betrayal spillover can subsequently contaminate trust development, we present a robust account of the downstream economic and behavioral consequences of observing others who have been betrayed by a similar entity, particularly in the context of charitable organizations. Unpacking the Black box: How inter- and intra-team forces motivate team rationality Research How can we ensure that teams can fulfill their full cognitive potential? This paper explores how team members can be motivated so that, collectively, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Eileen Chou New Associate Dean for Academic Affairs News The Batten School is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Eileen Chou as associate dean for academic affairs, effective July 1, 2023. Why Americans Feel More Pain News Millions of Americans are suffering from chronic pain linked to troubled childhoods, loneliness, and a host of other pressures on working families. Economic insecurity is also associated with more pain, according to a study by Batten Professor Eileen Chou cited in a New York Times series exploring the interrelated crisis impacting working-class America.