Management Information Systems Quarterly


Technology-mediated dangerous behaviors (TMDBs), such as posting selfies while driving or posting private information, are prevalent and potentially require interventions. Knowledge about the drivers of these, and specifically the role of information in stimulating such behaviors, is limited. To address this gap, this paper turns to foraging and risk-sensitivity theories. These theories suggest that animals engage in more dangerous behaviors when their perceived need for calories is high. Similarly, humans increase financial risk-taking when they perceive dissatisfaction with what they have. Importantly, inequality information can increase such perceptions and change people’s risk-taking propensity. Adapting these ideas, the paper postulates that TMDBs resemble food-seeking in animals in that they are goal oriented, can be dangerous, and yield unknown (probabilistic) rewards. Therefore, TMDBs are explained using foraging and risk-sensitivity theory angles. Focusing on social media users (Studies 1-4; four experiments; total n = 2,504), I argue that (1) it is reasonable to view users as foraging the “fields of social media” for social-hedonic rewards, (2) it is possible to alter their risk appetite and TMDBs through inequality information and upward comparison mechanisms, (3) this process can be mediated not only through cognitions, but also emotions, and (4) perceived scarcity of rewards and social comparison orientation affect this process. With Study 5, the paper extends the core aspects of this theoretical perspective to the U.S. state level and argues that objective financial inequality can explain differences between states in terms of TMDBs such as texting while driving and relative interest in TMDBs such as prank videos. The findings largely support these assertions. They illuminate the role of information, notably inequality, in driving TMDBs, extend prior research focused on basic needs (e.g., physiological needs in the case of food intake decisions) to an evaluation of higher-order human needs (e.g., needs for belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization) catered to by nonphysiological, social-hedonic rewards, and point to important mechanisms that translate inequality into TMDBs.