What is it about?

We investigate differences in perceived danger and recklessness judgements by experts (experienced skiers, N=362) and laypeople (N=2080) about participation in adventure sports. We investigate the relationship between danger and recklessness and the extent to which fatality frequency, as well as other contextual factors such as gender, dependants, competence, and motivations of the sports participant affect expert and laypeople judgements respectively. Experienced skiers gave lower overall danger and recklessness ratings than non-skiers. Experienced skiers’ judgements were also more sensitive than non-skiers’ to variations in the fatality rate of the activity and the competence level of the participant, yet were less sensitive to whether the event was done for external benefit such as a charity. Recklessness judgements were overall more sensitive to changes in activity descriptions than danger judgements. Our findings support the emerging picture of adventure sports participants as rational and sensitive to risk-relevant features rather than somehow pathological in their risk perception.

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Why is it important?

Firstly, increasing numbers of people are taking up adventurous outdoor sports, and studies highlight the potential benefits of such outdoor activities. Misperceptions about their risk can lead to stereotyping of those who engage in the sport and might hinder more widespread participation. Secondly, services such as wilderness search-and-rescue operations, mountain weather information services, and avalanche forecasting services are often entirely or largely funded by public funds. These services provide information to engage with the relevant risks more responsibly but their preventive role may not be properly appreciated by the public. In this wider context public perceptions, including those who do not participate, matter. Thirdly, adventure sports offer an intriguing opportunity to study real-world activities that challenge standard conceptions of risky decision making. If part of the value of a theory is its ability to generalize, then testing those theories in these applied decision contexts is an important and valuable test.


The work is connected to our www.varietiesofrisk.info project and involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers with their own experiences in pursuing adventure sports.

Philip Ebert
University of Stirling

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This page is a summary of: Expert and lay judgements of danger and recklessness in adventure sports, Journal of Risk Research, June 2022, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/13669877.2022.2091001.
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