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A problem -solving approach to occupational safety intervention: The effects of structuring aids, goal setting aids and safety -orientation on the quality of solutions generated to an ill-structured problem

Deborah Frenkel Goodman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

This study tested the effects of two problem solving interventions, problem structuring and goal setting, on the quality of solutions generated to an ill-structured problem by participants ranging in degree of safety-orientation. Solution quality was defined as the extent to which a problem solution resolved the conflicting aspects of the problem. Safety-orientation was defined as scores on the stress tolerance and risk avoidance dimensions of the Employee Safety Inventory (London House, 1988) where low scores on either scale indicate a propensity for high risk behavior and accident proneness. Participants were 245 undergraduate psychology students. Participants were instructed to generate solutions to a problem involving a trade-off between health/safety concerns and productivity concerns. After reading the problem, participants were provided with one of the two levels of problem structuring intervention: both objectives provided or no problem objectives provided. Participants were also provided with one of the three levels of goal setting intervention: a solution quantity goal, a solution quality goal or no goal. ^ Participants at a moderate level of risk avoidance and a high level of stress tolerance generated a greater number of quality solutions after setting a solution quantity goal. Similarly, the other participant groups generated marginally higher mean numbers of quality solutions after setting a quantity goal as compared with their performance under the quality goal and no goal conditions. When solution quality was measured as the proportion of quality solutions generated, high risk avoidant individuals performed more efficiently with a solution quality goal as compared with the no goal condition. ^ Low stress tolerant individuals generated a marginally higher proportion of quality solutions when provided with problem objectives, while high stress tolerant individuals were neither benefited nor impeded by this intervention. No structuring effects were obtained within any of the three levels of risk avoidance. Collapsed across structuring and goal setting intervention effects, low risk avoidant individuals generated significantly more solutions with ambiguous content as compared with moderately risk avoidant individuals, and generated marginally more productivity-biased solutions than did high risk avoidant individuals. ^ Overall, results provide some evidence of pre-existing bias toward the problem content and differential sensitivity to alternate forms of problem solving intervention as a function of this bias. The findings have implications for organizational safety training in that certain interventions may be more effective for improving safety-related problem definition activities for certain populations of individuals more than for others. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Industrial|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Goodman, Deborah Frenkel, "A problem -solving approach to occupational safety intervention: The effects of structuring aids, goal setting aids and safety -orientation on the quality of solutions generated to an ill-structured problem" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9929199.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI9929199

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