Elevation Influences People to make Risky Decisions

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Researchers reveal elevation of buildings to be an unexpected factor influencing critical decisions people make, according to a new study published on April 17, 2018.

Researchers at business school at Miami University conducted a study to understand how increasing elevation influences people to make risky decisions. People usually rely on financial managers, doctors, and lawyers when making decisions about investments, health, and legal issues, however, there seems to be an unexpected factor hidden factor that influences these choices people make.

The team found that people living at higher elevations or whose office buildings are at a height were more willing to take financial risks. “When you increase elevation, there is a subconscious effect on the sense of power. This heighted feeling of power results in more risk-seeking behavior.” Said Sina Esteky, lead author of the study.

They conducted a pilot study in which data of over 3,000 hedge funds throughout the world accounting for over US$ 500 billion worth assets, were analyzed. They correlated volatility level of the fund with the floor level of the firm, ranging from the first to the 96th floor.

Participants were also asked to make a betting decision as they were either ascending or descending in the glass elevator of a tall building. It was found that those who were going up to the 72rd floor were more likely to opt for the risky lottery that could result in either a small or significant win. While, people who were descending preferred conservative lottery with either a moderate or slightly larger win.

Researchers believe that increased power-related thoughts might explain how elevation affects risk preferences.

The study was limited to financial decisions, however, the researchers believe that further studies could show whether the subconscious effect of elevation influences other professionals such as doctors who are choosing treatment plans for patients.

It was observed that the elevation effect vanished when participants were informed that floor level influences behavior. It was also noted that the effect also disappeared when people could not see that they were on a higher floor level, such as those in cubicles without a window view.


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