For the Win Risk Sensitive Decision Making in Teams


Risk‐sensitivity theory predicts that decision‐makers should prefer high‐risk options in high need situations when low‐risk options will not meet these needs. Recent attempts to adopt risk‐sensitivity as a framework for understanding human decision‐making have been promising. However, this research has focused on individual‐level decision‐making, has not examined behavior in naturalistic settings, and has not examined the influence of multiple levels of need on decision‐making under risk. We examined group‐level risk‐sensitive decision‐making in two American football leagues: the National Football League (NFL) and the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I. Play decisions from the 2012 NFL (Study 1; N = 33 944), 2013 NFL (Study 2; N = 34 087), and 2012 NCAA (Study 3; N = 15 250) regular seasons were analyzed. Results demonstrate that teams made risk‐sensitive decisions based on two distinct needs: attaining first downs (a key proximate goal in football) and acquiring points above parity. Evidence for risk‐sensitive decisions was particularly strong when motivational needs were most salient. These findings are the first empirical demonstration of team risk‐sensitivity in a naturalistic organizational setting.

Journal of behavioral decision making
Josh Gonzales
Josh Gonzales

My research interests include sports analytics, decision-making under risk, and arts management.