Brother keeps crashing his bike, Prof T Byron responds.

Stolen from a Broadsheet. EeK

Interesting theory, anyone recognise the traits? Are you a “Sensation Seeker”? The responder to the question is Prof Tanya Byron.

Question clearly written by someone who has never ridden;)

Q My 50-year-old brother-in-law has just had a crash on his motorbike for the umpteenth time. He had an extended stay in hospital to recover, including a bout in intensive care, during which we all thought he wasn’t going to make it. In the ten years since I’ve known him, he’s come off his motorbike several times with various degrees of injury. Goodness knows what his insurance premiums must be like at this stage.

All of us in the extended family — siblings, parents and his children — implore him to sell his motorbikes (he has three of them) and use a car like the rest of us. But it falls on deaf ears. He says he loves motorbikes, end of story. Mind your own business.

Are we right to want to stop him? If we are, how do we do it? I wonder if there could be a deeper reason he refuses to give them up. Here’s a snapshot of his personal life: single parent divorced ages ago, but now has a serious girlfriend; patchy career; not much money; no retirement savings; parties hard — not just beer, but the occasional joint too. He has two children, one at university, the other just out of school.

He’s the least successful member of the family and has been outshone career-wise and money-wise by his two sisters, one of whom is my wife. Could he be trying to prove himself in some perverse way?

I hope you can help, we’re all very worried that next time could be the last time.

A It is entirely normal to worry about the health and wellbeing of those we love, especially if they seem to be putting themselves in danger. Given your brother-in-law’s history of motorcycle accidents, it is totally understandable that you want him to stop this high-risk behaviour. However, your letter points to issues that may underpin it and it would be helpful to consider these before any further conversations with him take place.

You seem to be wondering whether your brother-in-law is compensating for feelings of inadequacy. If this is part of the issue, then having all those around him who are more “successful” telling him to stop his motorbiking may feel extremely threatening.

However, it may be that his behaviour is more adequately understood as sensation-seeking, which is linked to a personality trait first researched in 1969 by Professor Marvin Zuckerman. Sensation seekers require high amounts of stimulation to feel optimally aroused. They seek out thrilling and risky experiences, are impulsive, get bored easily and enjoy being disinhibited (so are more likely to use drugs and alcohol).

Behaviours might include a need for speed, financial risk taking (eg, gambling), extreme sports, high-risk sexual behaviour often with multiple partners, criminal activity and a difficultly to stick with one activity or relationship. All this is done not solely for the risk (although that can be the outcome) but for the sake of new experiences, the “thrill”. Research highlights that this trait is more common in males and is often found shared among family members. This suggests a strong genetic component, hypothesised to be 60 per cent inherited. The behaviour increases with age from childhood.

Divorced men (compared with those who are married or single) tend to be more likely to display the trait, and high-sensation seekers have also been found to be more likely to show high-risk driving behaviour, to ignore traffic rules and to have more accidents. They also prefer arousing and loud, hard rock music.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that mediates pleasure and reward in the brain. It is released during “pleasurable” situations (food, sex, drugs) and stimulates one to seek out the pleasurable activity or occupation. Neurological research using brain scanning has suggested that the brains of sensation seekers respond differently to intense and arousing stimuli. They show higher levels of the dopamine D4 receptors involved in reward-seeking, and therefore need more input in order to feel aroused.

Zuckerman designed a personality test called the Sensation-Seeking Scale, which assesses individual differences in terms of sensory stimulation preferences. A version can be found here:

As an adult, your brother-in-law has the right to make his own decisions about how he leads his life. However, such decisions can be challenged if they are perceived by others to be a risk to him or to others. Indeed, apart from the obvious risk to him, it appears that your brother-in-law could also be endangering the lives of others given his frequent accident record, an important issue for him to consider.

Your families’ concerns bring to mind how telling an adolescent to not do something can make them even more determined to do it. A demand to stop is generally ineffective without a considered discussion spent looking at risks and enabling the individual to make their own informed decision.

Your brother-in-law can only address his behaviour when he understands what drives it and is able to find alternative behaviours that enable him to feel excited and rewarded.

It might be helpful for him to consult a psychologist who can help him think through his personality type (see However, unless this is discussed with him in a manner that makes him feel empowered to make his own decisions, I suspect he will retreat like a stroppy teenager and continue with his high-risk behaviours despite the pleas from those who love him.

Depends on how you look at life - some people might regard the biker as the most successful member of the family :smiley:

Yeah - after reading it - these dull, boring people are secretly worried that this guy is exposing their lives for the dull excuses for existence that they really are and want to put a stop to it!

Oh dear- I have a good job, earned enough for the family House, Have raised 5 happy healthy children run a voluntary sports club but I must be chemically imbalanced and need “high risk” activities to feel whole. PMSL

I ride a bike for all sorts of reasons but I dont think any of them are chemical based

That’s how I read it too. :slight_smile:

“parties hard — not just beer, but the occasional joint too.”

wow this guy need to be locked up straight away…he is a menace to society!

‘Celebrity’ TV watchers. More preoccupied with other peoples lives than their own mediocre existence

Two things that are clear to me from reading this article are:

  1. Prof Tanya Byron is your typical high level academic who is unable to comprehend or understand someone who’s lifestyle and attitude to risk is so different from her own safe, secure, and ‘normal’ mum dad 2.4 kids & a dog existence, that she feels the need to attach some kind of psycho-babble geek-speak bullsh1t label to it in order to rationalise it in her own head.

  2. “has been outshone career-wise and money-wise by his two sisters”… The person writing this question (and his wife & other family members) is another boring conformist who judges success on the basis of occupation, material possessions, size of bank balance etc. Again, they’re the type of people unable to comprehend anything outside of their constrictive comfort zone.

This guy might not have much of a career, money, retirement savings, or whatever, and his relatives might consider him to be unsuccessful in life and trying to “prove himself in some perverse way”. To me, this guy has a richer life than all of them by the sound of it. By all means express your concerns for his safety, but DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT… buy him some advanced riding lessons as a present if you’re that concerned. And recognise that other aspects of his lifestyle are none of your business.

Jeeeezus, reading this kind of BS is like the conversations some guys get in to with you when they’re being dragged around the supermarket by their missus, looking like they just want to lie down and die! Your by your bike outside and they wander up, stare longingly at it, maybe ask you a few questions about it, tell you that they’ve always fancied a bike but that their wife won’t let them have one, or they can’t have one because they’re a father… or whatever. I’m always polite enough not to laugh out loud at them, but I’m probably thinking what every other biker is thinking… FFS, you’re a grown man, grow some f**king balls!!!

Yeah - I’ve been outshone by all kinds of people and I don’t give a f*ck + I have no pension and will probably end up being eaten by a pack of feral dogs on some deserted waste ground :smiley:

Bring it on!

Wow this man and this woman must be the most boring people alive… Until you’re snorting cocaine of a woman’s ass while a female midget fist f*cks her… you haven’t become reckless or unstable :smiley:

Also I hate it when people define success as career, money, stability… I mean what’s the problem with someone dying young? It’s not like the universe is going to implode!

"Your families’ concerns bring to mind how telling an adolescent to not do something can make them even more determined to do it. A demand to stop is generally ineffective without a considered discussion spent looking at risks and enabling the individual to make their own informed decision. "

This woman has clearly never heard the fact that all decisions are emotion based and that no decision can be made in the absence of emotions. We like to think we are rational beings whereas in fact it’s quite the opposite…

I think even ‘Dear Deidre’ could have answered it better.

There was a question missing from the professors survey:

Do you

a) Constantly worry that other people are comparing their life to yours and finding it wanting, or

b) Wonder if you are an ego-centric know-it-all with a superiority complex?

What a load of toss. The poor guy has just crashed his bike- the last thing he needs is a lecture :slight_smile:

Funny that they complain he has no retirement planning when he’s in a poorly paid job…anyone would think those two things are related…ha!

ha ha that sounds like a good night!