LIFE EXPERIENCES AND LOAD STRESS AS EACH RELATE TO RISK TAKING BY A SAMPLE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
The purpose of this study was to ascertain the relationship of recent life-experience stress and load stress to risk-taking. Life-experience stress was identified by the Life-Experiences Survey (LES); load stress was induced by the Streufert Video Task (SVT) and risk-taking was measured by the subject's response to the SVT. The one hundred sixty male volunteers were law enforcement officers attending the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy (FBINA). The hypotheses tested posited that: (1) subjects exposed to high load stress--high speed level and high task level on the SVT--would take more risks than subjects exposed to low load stress--low speed and low task levels; (2) subjects with negative LES scores would take more risks than subjects with positive LES scores; and, (3) subjects with negative LES scores would take more risks at high load levels while subjects with positive LES scores would show no differences across load stress levels. The data were analyzed with a 2 x 2 x 2 analysis of variance (ANOVA), with fixed effects, after the homogeneity of variance assumption had been tested and found nonsignificant using the F(,max) procedure. The risk-taking score--the dependent variable--was measured in such a way that a score of one indicated maximum risk and a score of five indicated low risk. The results showed that subjects with negative LES scores took more risks than subjects with positive LES scores, and that subjects who were exposed to higher load stress on the SVT took more risks. The results were not significant for the third hypothesis. This last result could have occurred because a boundary problem existed with the SVT: subjects were limited in the amount of risk they were able to take before they failed. Additional analysis was done on a second dependent variable--called collisions--which was the number of times subjects took the maximum amount of risk and then failed at the task. The results of the additional analysis showed that while subjects with negative LES scores took greater risks than subjects with positive LES scores, they did not fail at a greater rate.