Pay Attention and Be Aware or Safety Will Get You
One of the myths of the risk and safety industry is that attention and awareness can be switched on and switched off. That we can make ourselves conscious and then slip into unconsciousness. Of course, this is not real nor true but shows up all the time in incident investigations and language in the safety industry concerning error.
How amazing this safety industry that blames people for inattention yet doesn’t research or show any interest in the psychology of awareness.
If you want to know about awareness and attention you need to start by tackling the wicked problem of consciousness (and unconscious). Consciousness is not just a brain activity but a whole of being activity, just as is being unconscious.
Have you ever jolted in a dream or got goose bumps unconsciously? Have you ever been overcome with crying and tried to stop? It’s impossible to consciously (rationally) stop crying when your unconsciousness wants to cry.
Have you ever driven to a location and when you got there realized you remember very little of the trip? You more than likely drove whilst in a trance, were unconscious or drove on heuristics.
Similarly, when we undertake any habit we do so without ‘thinking’, habit is defined as an action undertaken unconsciously. If you are conscious of a habit, it’s not a habit.
Despite all the research into neuropsychology and consciousness, no one knows why we are conscious of our own consciousness (of being a self) and conscious of being unconscious (not being a self).
We have all seen the experiments on change blindness and inattention blindness:
All of these show that we all know about unconscious decision making and experience such daily.
Research into consciousness and awareness is extensive, some sources were listed here: https://safetyrisk.net/consciously-safe-unconsciously-unsafe-or-head-in-the-sand-safety/
You can also do your own research here:
Fawcett, Risko and Klinstone (2015) The Handbook of Attention. Mit Press. London.
Styles, E., (2006) The Psychology of Attention. Psychology Press. New York.
Of course all the research shows that ‘safety is not a ‘choice you make’ (https://safetyrisk.net/the-great-safety-is-a-choice-delusion/; https://safetyrisk.net/why-safety-isnt-a-choice-you-make/ ). Such language is nonsense and stands in denial of all we know about unconsciousness and unconscious influences on decision making.
Safety wants to make unsafety a choice so that it can dream that it understands decision making and can blame people for their choices. None of this is true. The nature of human awareness and attention in consciousness is a wicked problem. There is no solution. We simply do not know why people daydream, lose consciousness and then become conscious that they ‘lost’ it.
One thing is for sure; neither attention or awareness can be switched on or off as if by rational will.
This doesn’t mean that humans are not responsible for their actions neither does it mean that because it is a wicked problem that the mystery of consciousness ought not be tackled. There is no great benefit in being ignorant about consciousness or dreaming that safety is undertaken by choice. Simplistic safety is simply dangerous and ensures that nothing improves.