Implicit Social Cognition and Safety Culture

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Most models define safety culture as basic assumptions, attitudes, or values concerning organizational safety issues. When measuring safety cultures, many researchers have had their main focus on explicit safety-critical attitudes and generally relied on specific survey instruments. It is questionable, however, whether self-report measures can capture all aspects of organizational safety culture. Instead of getting direct answers, implicit measures rely on activating automatic attitudes derived from long-term memory and measure the time it takes an individual to react to attitude-evoking stimuli. This article deals with the relationship between implicit safety-critical attitudes and safety culture. The first study involved the measurement of explicit and implicit safety-critical attitudes from 376 participants working in various industries. The Implicit Association Test (IAT)-a latency-based measurement approach-was applied to assess implicit safety-critical attitudes. Explicit safety attitudes were measured by questionnaire. Implicit and explicit attitudes are both related to organizational safety performance indicators, such as data concerning accidents and near misses. The second study involved both types of safety-critical attitudes that were used for predicting safety culture indicators on an individual level. An example of this is risk awareness. The first study's results show that explicit and implicit safety-critical attitudes represent various aspects of an organizational safety culture and can be related to safety performance indicators on an organizational level. The second study's results indicate that implicitly measured attitudes have been better at predicting safety culture indicators on an individual level compared to explicit attitude. Recommendations for future research in the field of safety culture assessment are made.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing and Service Industries
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)213-234
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 05.2012

    Research areas

  • Business psychology - Implicit Association Test, Implicit attitudes, Mental processes, Risk awareness, Safety culture