Human decisions – what behavioural economics can teach safety people

Many think that we humans do a tremendous job at making choices. Economic traditionalist claim we think like Einstein, store information like your computer and have the will power of the Dalai Lama. Supporting a notion that we choose unfailingly well. Unfortunately that isn’t anyone I know.

Instead, real people can’t do simple math without a calculator, forget where they put their car keys and eat unhealthy food too many times! A big difference between the traditional thinking about the choices we make and reality.

The safety world is no different. We seem to think that people assess risks rationally and logically. We often expect predictability in our risk-related behaviour. This is not what I have seen in the many investigations I have been involved in. Actually the contrary is true. Almost a predictable irrationality!

This is where the latest research and the many studies from the field of Behavioural Economics can show for us safety folks, how people actually make decisions and design programs based on reality. We are more irrational and biased in our choices then all of us want to accept, predictably!


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