Workshop Series: Ellen Garbarino

28 October, 2011 - 10:30 to 12:00
Terrace Room, ICTE, Sir Llew Edwards Building

Many important economic decisions involve financial risk, and there is substantial evidence that women tend to be more risk averse than men. We explore a potential biological basis of the variation in risk-taking within and between men and women using an emerging measure of prenatal androgrens, the ratio between the length of the second and fourth digits (2D:4D). A smaller 2D:4D ratio has been linked to higher exposure to prenatal testosterone relative to estradiol, with men having lower ratios than women on average. In an individual decision-making task with financial stakes, we find that both men and women with smaller 2D:4D ratios chose significantly riskier options. We further find that the 2D:4D ratio can partially explain the overall difference in risk-taking between men and women. Moreover, for men and women at the extreme ends of the digit-ratio distribution the difference in risk-taking disappears entirely. Thus, the 2D:4D ratio can at least partially explain variation in financially motivated risk-taking behavior both within and between sexes and offers strong evidence of a biological basis of attitudes toward risk-taking.

Ellen Garbarino, Professor of Marketing, University of Sydney

Dr. Ellen Garbarino ( is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Sydney. She received her PhD in Marketing from Duke University and has taught at a number of U.S. universities before moving to Australia in 2008. Her expertise is in combining psychology and economic ideas and applying them to consumer behaviour and decision making. Her research focuses on behavioural decision making, Internet retailing, and pricing. Much of her research focuses on use of affectively charged cognitions, such as trust, risk, commitment, fairness. Her research has been published in many leading journals including Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Psychology & Marketing and Journal of Business Research.