Bloxham School Eunoia Society: Are you a Risk Taker?

Many thanks to Lower Sixth student Annabel Gulliver for her report on last week's Eunoia Society lecture:

Thursday evening saw the Headmaster give a talk to students and staff on the “Philosophy of Risk”. Mr Sanderson began by asking the audience to take their resting pulse rate, explaining the way in which the idea of risk affects our heart rate. He then went on to express his passion for extreme sports, and showed two video clips of two influential extreme sportsmen. The audience, having watched both videos and taken their pulse rate once more, discovered that by just watching a video of an extreme sport their heart rate had risen a considerable amount!

We were then introduced to Josh’s base jump simulation headset which enthusiastic volunteer Emma Brodey proceeded to try out herself. She discovered that her heart rate had more than doubled afterwards due to the adrenaline rush from the experience. Mr Sanderson explained that Emma’s brain had responded in the same way to the simulated base jump as if she had actually been taking part. He then explained the genetics and hormones involved in causing these reactions and how it is different for everybody, how every person has a different “risk threshold”. It was particularly interesting and somewhat unsurprising to discover that the section of the brain which is stimulated by fear is much bigger in women than in men.

The audience were then asked to think about the question: “If some of us are genetically programmed to take risks and some are not, is that a good thing or not?”

A video was shown at the end of the talk, showing “Lawn Chair Larry”, a winner of the Darwin Award and the only surviving member of the “Darwin Society” (a club in which the members have all done something particularly stupid, resulting in an important discovery). The Headmaster closed the talk by explaining how everybody has a different risk threshold; to each other, to the two extreme sportsmen in the videos, and to “Lawn Chair Larry”.

Our genetic make-up is all different, so next time you’re given the chance to take part in a skydive or another adrenalin-fuelled activity, stop and think about whether you will play it safe, or whether you actually are programmed to take risks.