Why are some people more adventures than others

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Being adventures makes no sense

During ancient times being adventures could have resulted in the survival of a person or even the survival of a whole tribe. Discovering new source of food, discovering a new lake or finding a safer cave were among the rewards an ancient person could have reaped if he was more adventures.

But in modern times where there is no threat of starving to death or a threat of being eaten by a wild animal such life risks make no sense from a psychological point of view.

So why would a person risk his life or enjoy an extreme sport if that won't help him survive?
The answer is simple. There is a strong psychological reward that some people get when they go through such risks.

Emotions are very powerful forces and once a human learns how to trigger some kind of positive emotions he might go lengths just to achieve that goal. In fact many of the dangerous habits such as drug addiction have the purpose of helping people change their moods to the better or achieve some psychological goal. See What are the subconscious goals and how they affect your life.

The thrill seeking personality

Some people suggest that there is a type of personality called the sensation seeker. This type of personality gets excited by thrilling and dangerous experiences. See Why do people like horror movies

Evidence suggests that thrill-seeking or sensation seeking is about 60% genetic compared to the normal average of genetic influence which is around 30%. But again even if sensation seeking is connected to genetics still the environment has to interact with the person in a certain way in order for his genes to be expressed. See Do genes affect personality.

Some personality traits were found to be strongly connected to sensation seeking especially when they are all found together. Aggression, impulsiveness and sociability were found to be connected to sensation seeking.

This doesn't mean that a sensation seeker is aggressive but it just means that those traits could make a person more likely to be a sensation seeker.

The purely psychological perspective

I am not a fan of believing that genetics controls everything for one simple reason which is that the environmental factors were proven to be much more powerful in determining one's personality than genetics.

Apart from the fact that the sensation seeker, or adventures person, could be trying to seek certain chemicals that elevate his mood still there are psychological factors that could turn a person into a sensation seeker even if the thrill seeking genes weren't there.

Here are some of them:

  • 1) Proving something: A person might go through very dangerous risks just to prove something to himself or to others. Humans are social beings and most of their motives are governed either directly or indirectly by social factors. If a person wants to prove that he is brave for example then being adventurous would seem like a good path.
  • 2) Gaining superiority: Humans do many things to feel superior to others including gossiping, criticizing others and even doing dangerous things. According to Alfred Adler, the founder of individual psychology, humans have an innate desire to feel superior to others but each person expresses this desire in a different way See Striving for superiority
  • 3) Compensation: A person could be doing risky activities just because deep inside he is truly afraid of life. Compensation is one of the most popular coping mechanisms humans use to deny some of their strong emotions. See Inferiority complex and compensation
  • 4) Gaining attention: One of the fastest ways to gain attention is to do something really dangerous. If the desire to gain attention was strong enough and if no other methods were found then a person might go for extreme methods such as dangerous sports

Is this all?

Of course not. There can be 50 different reasons for the same exact behaviour. The purpose of the above ones is to give you an idea about the direction you should follow when trying to come up with an explanation of a certain uncommon behaviour.

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