Risking Life and Limb

Mark R. Leary

in The Curse of the Self

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780195172423
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786756 | DOI:
 Risking Life and Limb

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Many of the risks that people take with their safety and health can be traced to the self. In particular, the desire to be perceived in particular ways by others often promotes risk-taking, leading people to do things that are dangerous to themselves or others. When people drive dangerously, show off with dangerous stunts, or succumb to peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors, they are often engaging in impression management (or self-presentation), trying to convey a particular impression of themselves to others. Similarly, when people engage in excessive suntanning, fail to practice safe sex, or drastically undereat (as in the case of anorexia), their concerns about how they appear to others may result in disease or death. Furthermore, self-reflection is often so aversive that people seek ways to escape it, engaging not only in relatively harmless escapism (such as napping, TV watching, and shopping) but in more extreme and detrimental forms of escape (including alcohol and drug use, masochism, and suicide). None of the dangerous and maladaptive behaviors examined in this chapter would be possible without the self.

Keywords: risk-taking; impression management; self-presentation; safe sex; suntanning; drug use; anorexia; alcohol abuse; escapism; suicide

Chapter.  9364 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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