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A new, massive study is trying to figure out why we will take some risks, but not others

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PRE-COVID, THE ULTIMATE social faux pas was to show up late, again, to your BFF’s birthday drinks (now, of course, the faux pas is to show up at all). A common excuse: The traffic is abysmal. If you’ve been there, you know how tempting it is to just hit the gas when a green traffic light turns to amber.

Do you speed up, hoping to make it through the light safely? Or do you hit the brakes and wait for the red light to play out? According to a recent study, what you actually decide to do in these little, everyday moments may be more telling about how your brain is structured than you think.

Assuming you’re not in a self-driving car, there are a number of factors that will play into these split-second decisions, but all of them add up to one question — is it worth the risk?

WHAT’S NEW — Gideon Nave, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, is co-author of the study, published January 28 in the journal Nature Human BehaviorNave and his team were interested in defining how a person’s genetics affect her capacity to take risks.

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