What does behavioural psychology have to do with our safety?

Published: September 5, 2019 | By Meredith Moore

By Meredith Moore, Founder and CEO Greylake Training Solutions

 

Everything.

Some people freeze when facing a threat. Some ignore warning signs.  Some walk right into crisis. Why?

Understanding the motivations behind and reasons for human behaviour is the key to keeping ourselves, our family, friends and co-workers safe from threats.  This understanding can help us respond to threats in a way that can protect us, our family or colleagues. For organisations, it can help shape new ways to engage colleagues and ensure a safe work environment.

Our behaviours are a product of both our conscious and unconscious brains working together to get us through our day.   We mostly think our conscious mind has the most control over our behaviour; it’s mostly in the driver’s seat.  We make choices and decisions with our rational minds using logic that is based on our knowledge. This concept has been a core principle in politics, religion, philosophy and democracy since the dawn of time.  Yet, people tend to be swayed by the mood, behaviour and actions of others in our environment, without our conscious knowledge, let alone our consent. Our environment has a powerful influence on how we behave. When our behaviour is unconsciously affected by things such as peer pressure, fear and panic, this can play out very dangerously in an emergency. Herd mentality, denial, the bystander effect, mob violence and stampedes are all cases in point.

The good news is “human behaviour is plastic, incredibly pliable,” according to social scientist, Phillip Zimbardo. This means that we can do better when it comes to safety and security. If we shift the paradigm from a traditional command and control approach of emergency management, to an approach that gives people the power to understand and account for why their behaviour is likely to play out in an emergency, they can begin building a safer mindset and new behaviours. I’ll continue to explore topics related to how our behaviour impacts our survival, the risks we take and how we make decisions in an emergency.

Until next time.