Overcoming Emotion and Denial with Data and Moral Psychology

Andrew Forbes
(Intel Corporation)

As professionals who rely on good data to make informed decisions, it can sometimes be baffling when others fail to acknowledge its value. Many industrial hygienists have run into situations where even the most inspiring graphs and charts fail to move people to accept changes in behavior or policy that are clearly needed. This can happen at any level within an organization, from a worker refusing to wear PPE to a senior level manager deciding that an effective engineering control isn’t good enough. An answer for this can somewhat surprisingly be found in modern advancements in moral psychology, specifically regarding the way that logic and emotional interact. Research over the past decade has created a framework to describe why data isn’t always enough to convince someone regardless of how obvious the conclusion appears. While this may be an aggravating problem, there are ways to mitigate the worst of it. Case studies from diverse work environments including the United States Marine Corps and the semiconductor manufacturing industry will be used to illustrate why this happens and review the strengths and weaknesses of different communication styles.

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