There different paradigms that are all parts of the overall cognitive dissonance theory. This post will focus on the Belief Disconfirmation Paradigm. This aspect focuses on belief. When someone believes in something and yet is faced with facts that do not support their belief, they have two options. They can either change their beliefs or they can find ways to not only reinforce their belief. Usually the reinforcement of the belief leads them to find people and groups with similar beliefs and leads to attempts to persuade others to join the group. Essentially, they are disconfirming the facts through a stronger belief.
In a non-occupational safety item, the use of seatbelts is an interesting evaluation of this paradigm. Studies show that seatbelt usage will decrease the risk of death or serious injury in an automobile accident by up to 50% (CDC Information). I will use the state of Kentucky as an example. As of 2011, it was estimated that only 82% of the state’s residents used seatbelts (NHTSA Information). It should be noted that Kentucky is a state with a seatbelt law. Since the time of the law the state has seen an increase of 16% greater usage of seatbelts.
So why is it that we know that seat belts save live and is a law yet approximately one in five choose not to wear them? Now for a bit of personal commentary: I have noticed when facing someone who is non-seatbelt user they will instinctively tell a story of a time where they think a seatbelt may have created a situation where someone would have been seriously hurt while wearing one. They may also give names of other people who do not wear them. This is an example of Belief Disconfirmation.
This occurs also in occupational safety. There are ways that this can be overcome. Education is key, overwhelming information that will help in giving people the facts and truth about the risk and how to mitigate that risk. People need the right tools to make the right choices. As a safety person, I cannot assume that people are simply choosing to make the unsafe choice. The first plan should be to make sure they have been equipped with the right information to make a informed a proper decision.
This can also be a case where safety rules do come into play. The makes the choice for compliance clear. Like in seatbelt usage, Kentucky saw the greatest increase in usage once compliance was a law. With that said, a rule alone is not enough. Education is still the critical path. There has to be an understanding of the benefit of the rule and how the rule helps in keeping people safe.
Overall, the process is to help not only present information that would reduce dissonance but also help equip others that might be influence by the belief. The goal is to create opportunities for people to see the facts and understand the process for personal and organizational safety.