Researching risk taking in high-stake contexts: a Q&A with Benno Guenther

Exploring professional trading, aviation and COVID-19 related risks

Benno Guenther is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing about studying at LSE are the people from all over the world
Benno Guenther
Benno Guenther

What are you currently researching?

I am currently researching risk taking in high-stake contexts. When I started my PhD, my primary area of interest was professional trading and aviation. However, my focus has shifted with the onset of COVID-19 and a lot of my research to date has been in the context of risk-taking during the pandemic. For example, I have been exploring which segments of the population are more likely to take COVID-19 related risks.

Why did you choose this area of study?

Risk tolerance and risk taking are fundamental aspects of decision making and play a central role in many choices we make across various facets of our lives. This was particularly obvious to me during my former career as professional trader, where risk taking is at the very core of the day-to-day job. I wanted to find out more about its influence on the choices we make.

How will your research have a wider impact on society? Can you give some real-world examples of the impact your research will have?

Better understanding of risk taking across various high-stake contexts is important to shape future behaviour change that leads to better outcomes. My research, in particular the studies related to COVID-19, can help inform policy decisions during the current but also during potential future pandemics to reduce the impact it has on lives and livelihoods.

On the other hand, my industry-related research can lead to increased investment returns helping people increase their pension savings or reduced flight delays in the context of air traffic management.

What have been the highlights of your research work so far?

The highlight so far has been the publication of our recent research around inter individual differences in risk taking in the context of COVID-19. Interest in these findings has led to talks, blog articles and the opportunity to review academic journals.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

The biggest challenge has certainly been the onset of COVID-19 which has had a very significant impact on my research and the ability to carry it out. In particular, the pandemic has made it much more difficult to run some of the crucial experiments I was planning to conduct in the context of professional trading and aviation. Having said that, the pandemic shifted my focus and increased my ability to work more internationally overnight.

What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

I don’t believe there is a unique ‘most effective way’ to approach research. Everyone works differently and we all have to find the way that works best for us individually. What I would say though is that it is extremely important to choose a topic you are passionate about and find people who you enjoy working with.

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing about studying at LSE are the people from all over the world with fascinating backgrounds and diverse interests who come together as a powerful and enabling community.