Controlled versus automatic processes: Which is dominant to safety? The moderating effect of inhibitory control

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Abstract

This study explores the precursors of employees' safety behaviors based on a dual-process model, which suggests that human behaviors are determined by both controlled and automatic cognitive processes. Employees' responses to a self-reported survey on safety attitudes capture their controlled cognitive process, while the automatic association concerning safety measured by an Implicit Association Test (IAT) reflects employees' automatic cognitive processes about safety. In addition, this study investigates the moderating effects of inhibition on the relationship between self-reported safety attitude and safety behavior, and that between automatic associations towards safety and safety behavior. The results suggest significant main effects of self-reported safety attitude and automatic association on safety behaviors. Further, the interaction between self-reported safety attitude and inhibition and that between automatic association and inhibition each predict unique variances in safety behavior. Specifically, the safety behaviors of employees with lower level of inhibitory control are influenced more by automatic association, whereas those of employees with higher level of inhibitory control are guided more by self-reported safety attitudes. These results suggest that safety behavior is the joint outcome of both controlled and automatic cognitive processes, and the relative importance of these cognitive processes depends on employees' individual differences in inhibitory control. The implications of these findings for theoretical and practical issues are discussed at the end.

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Xu, Y., Li, Y., Ding, W., & Lu, F. (2014). Controlled versus automatic processes: Which is dominant to safety? The moderating effect of inhibitory control. PLoS ONE, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0087881

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