Is this true? Too scared to be a millionaire? Most people are not natural gamblers, reveals a study of the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. As a group, contestants would take home a lot more money if they took more risks. Economists know that some people worry more than others â especially about the prospect of painful losses â when facing decisions with uncertain outcomes. A fearless gambler may take any bet with favourable odds, but many people, being "risk averse", will pass on such bets just to avoid the possibility of a significant loss. As economist Gauthier Lanot of the Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland and colleagues have now shown, ârisk averseâ seems to describe how most people play Who Wants to be a Millionaire. They modelled the behaviour of 515 participants in the first eleven series of the UK game, in which players face a sequence of multiple-choice questions, continuing as long as they answer correctly. A player's potential winnings roughly double at each stage, but they also face progressively greater losses â and, consequently, a temptation to quit while ahead. Against nature Of the 515 contestants, only three contestants went the entire way to win the Â£1 million. In general, participants were so risk averse that roughly two-thirds left the programme by quitting while they were ahead, while only one-third ended the game by gambling on a question they then answered incorrectly. The economistsâ analysis, based around a mathematical model, suggest that more people would have won a million â and the contestants have taken home more overall â if they were less risk averse and willing to gamble. But contestants would also have suffered some staggering losses, which is against human nature. "Most people are not reckless,â says Lanot. âThey are cautious and worry a lot about losses." He believes the contestants are a good model for the rest of the population in terms of risk-taking. âNo university would ever fund us to do something like this,â he adds. The study was presented at the World Congress of the Econometric Society at University College London, UK on Wednesday.