Highway to the danger zone! controlled and automatic pathways to unsafe behaviors in response to time pressure.

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Highway to the danger zone! controlled and automatic pathways to unsafe behaviors in response to time pressure.

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The current research sought to make three primary contributions to the workplace safety literature. First, the research examining motivational influences on workplace safety has taken a largely static approach. In the current research a within-person approach was taken, drawing on self-regulatory theories of multiple-goal pursuit to make predictions about how individuals make trade-offs between safety and productivity while in the process of performing a task. Taking a within-person approach is critical, as accidents and injuries may be most likely to occur when resources like time are in short supply. The workplace safety literature has also largely limited its focus to controlled psychological processes. However, many motivational and decision-making processes occur automatically, below conscious awareness. A second contribution of the current research was the identification of both controlled (i.e., conscious) and automatic (i.e., non-conscious) pathways to task- and safety-performance. A third intended contribution of the proposed research was to demonstrate how two easily implemented safety interventions--regulatory focus framing and safety cues--would influence the multiple pathways to safety and productivity. Participants (N = 88) in this study performed an air traffic control simulation task. As predicted, individuals behaved more unsafely when under high time pressure, as unsafe "corner cutting" was an effective way to meet efficiency goals. Also, conscious perceptions of expectancy mediated the relationship between time pressure and unsafe behavior. However, no support was found for the mediating effects of non-conscious goal processes. The presence of safety cues did reduce unsafe behaviors, but only when efficiency goals were framed as opportunities rather than obligations, and only early in the experiment. I conclude by considering the theoretical and practical implications of the current research. Specifically, the current study demonstrated the importance of considering when unsafe behaviors are most likely to emerge and how managers and organizations can mitigate risks of accidents and injuries during high time pressure performance episodes.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2012. Major: Psychology. Advisor: Dr. Aaron M. Schmidt. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 140 pages.

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Beck, James W.. (2012). Highway to the danger zone! controlled and automatic pathways to unsafe behaviors in response to time pressure.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/131447.

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