The Unconscious In Risk Decision Making

The Unconscious In Risk Decision Making

safety checklistsA brilliant essay submitted as part of his study for the Graduate Certificate in the Psychology of Risk – by Andrew Thornhill – Director – IRM Systems Pty Ltd – www.irmsystems.com.au

The Essay Question: “How is the unconscious in communication critical for understanding and managing risk?”

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As evidence, Andrew includes several recent examples including:  “the structure of current BP safety objectives is a further example of the failure to understand the influence of the unconscious in communication – specifically the impact of key performance indicators being used to “determine remuneration” of management”

Introduction

The unconscious (the non-conscious processing of information by the brain[1]) enables humans to process the 11 million bits of data received by the senses every second – prior to conscious thought[2]. This unconscious processing influences and informs the way people feel, perceive, judge, decide, behave, their memory, creativity and their perception[3] of what they hear and see around them – factors critical in making sense of and managing risk.

Drawing on the work of Norretranders, Long[4], Claxton, Mlodinow[5] and Gigerenzer[6] this essay examines the importance of the unconscious in communication with particular reference to semiotics, pitching, framing, anchoring and priming, heuristics, motivation and concepts of self – and how it is critical in understanding and managing risk.

It is argued that recognition of the unconscious in communication requires a willingness to think differently, to the control oriented focus of orthodox risk management, when engaging and influencing others in the management of risk. The trade-off created by strategies that do not recognise the role of the unconscious in decision making and judgement are discussed with reference to a number of case studies. Finally, a learning model (that recognises communication to the unconscious) is put forward as key element of any strategy to better manage the human elements in risk.

DOWNLOAD ESSAY HERE The Unconscious In Decision Making

Conclusion

Understanding of the unconscious in communication facilitates the need to think differently when engaging and influencing others in the management of risk. Much of the communication and tools in traditional risk are designed for the conscious rational mind, which is not how the humans think, make decisions and judgements. Facilitation of a learning environment that fosters trial and error and innovative approaches to risk is a step in the right direction in reducing the inevitable trade-off of control focussed approaches.

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