Thinking of better or worse? How goal orientation affects safety behavior in near misses

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Hongxu Lu
Ting Wu
Dawei Liu
Zhe Wang
Cite this article:  Lu, H., Wu, T., Liu, D., & Wang, Z. (2018). Thinking of better or worse? How goal orientation affects safety behavior in near misses. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 46(3), 375-386.


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Near misses in which safety plays a critical role are significant to organizations. However, how people in safety-critical organizations can learn from near misses and in the future avoid the associated negative consequences still remains unresolved. Drawing on goal orientation theory, we explored how individuals’ goal orientation influences their response in a near-miss situation, mediated by counterfactual thinking. We conducted a field study with 141 construction workers and car-accessory-manufacturing workers in China. The results indicated that upward counterfactual thinking mediated the positive relationship between learning goal orientation and safety participation, whereas downward counterfactual thinking mediated the negative relationship between performance goal orientation and safety participation. The findings together highlight the significance of goal orientation and counterfactual thinking in influencing people’s safety behavior in the workplace.

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