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Thread: Testing a hypothesis - Behaviour and Risk

  1. #1 Testing a hypothesis - Behaviour and Risk 
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    Dec 2013
    Hello All - I work in the safety industry, so work with human behaviours on a daily basis. I have a working knowledge of basic human drivers and motivators, (as do most practitioners in the industry), perhaps an addiction to Maslow, but no formal background in psychology. My question relates to how somebody without a formal qualification in psychology can go about testing a hypothesis - what resources can be recommended and how do you search effectively? Google is of little use because search results tend to be polluted by medical sites and non-attributable discussions. Here's my working hypothesis: 1. A person is exposed to a risk that, in absolute terms, does not increase or decrease over time - for example, the wheel falling off their car and causing an accident due to a lack of maintanance. Let's assume that the probability of the risk is increased over the residual risk that all drivers face, but is fixed at the higher risk level. 2. It is my hypothesis that as time moves forward and the cost to fix that issue, and reduce the risk back to residual levels, increases (due to additional maintanance requirements, or decreased availability of spare parts), that most individuals assessment of the absolute risk that they face will actually decrease over time. That is to say they will come to regard the risk of the wheel falling off their car and causing an accident due to a lack of maintanance as lower than it was in the past, because they subconsiously see the cost of fixing it as an additional balancing risk.Any thoughts - I would be very surprised if this hasn't been tested in the past, but I don't know where to start researching.Thanks for any advice.And appologies for the amorphois blob of text - for some reason the forum seems to remove all carriage returns!

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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    It's been decades since i left the academy, so I don't remember all of the phraseology, but what your talking about derives from the concept of desensitization.
    Shall I elaborate?

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  4. #3  
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    Nov 2013
    Ontario, Canada
    I can only see desensitization being a factor if the person believes the risk is not going to increase over time, that is, the loose wheel is not going to become looser and eventually fall off. Most people expect car problems to get worse. Maybe a better example would be not wearing a seat belt, in which the risk is essentially the same each time you go out on the road, and doesn't increase tomorrow because of not wearing it yesterday. Nevertheless, your life time risk increases by consistently not wearing one.

    The lifetime risk of dying in a car accident is 1 in 240 in the UK, 1 in 82 in the US. I couldn't find the statistic for non-fatal accidents.

    Of course, unlike your example above there is no cost and not much inconvenience to wearing one. I can't think of a car maintenance problem that isn't likely to get worse over time. Even with a headlight that is burnt out, people tend to fix it fairly quickly because if the other one goes out, they're screwed.

    The interesting thing about peoples risk tolerance is that it's not necessarily the severity of the consequences, but the likelihood or certainty of them that actually changes behavior.
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