In sight and in mind : does increasing the salience of the limitations of safety equipment reduce risk taking behaviour?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Unwanted risk taking behaviour is something which weighs heavily on society, and yet high accident rates resulting from risk taking behaviour would indicate that existing preventative measures leave room for improvement. The present experiment approached risk taking behaviour in the context of Risk Homeostasis theory (RHT), in order to examine whether increasing the salience of the limitations of safety equipment would decrease the risk taking behaviour associated with RHT. 46 participants from the University of Canterbury student body were randomly assigned to one of two conditions, the control and the “high-salience” participant pool and asked to climb a rock climbing wall twice, using a belaying system and harness. In the high-salience pool, participants were exposed to a small warning label attached to their harness which had to be removed to don the safety equipment. The label was marked with the warning intended to increase the salience of the safety equipment’s limitations. The time taken to complete each of the two climbs, as well as the number of times each participant slipped or fell whilst climbing was recorded. These were used to measure risk taking during the climb. All participants were also given a nine-question questionnaire which measured their perceived enjoyableness of the activity. It was hypothesised that increasing the salience of the limitations of safety equipment would decrease the risk taking behaviour associated with Risk Homeostasis theory. It was further hypothesised that the salience of the limitations of safety equipment would not negatively affect participant perceptions of activity enjoyability. Analysis of the resulting data supported the study hypotheses, and found that there were statistically significant between group differences associated with increasing the salience of safety equipment limitations on risk taking behaviour. It was also found that this increase in salience had no statistically significant influence on perceived enjoyableness.