The present research is motivated by an interest in why organizational decision makers so often respond to accidents with remedy plans that focus narrowly on correcting human error rather than more environment-focused plans or more encompassing plans. We investigated the role of counterfactual thinking in the decision-making tendency toward human-focused plans. Our experiments indicated that even in a domain where human-focused remedies were not otherwise appealing, many participants decided on human-focused remedies after they had generated an “if only” conjecture about the accident. This reflects that human actions are often selected as the focus of “if only” conjectures and, importantly, that this focus “locks in” and carries through to subsequent remedy decisions. Our hypothesis that remedy plans are produced from “if only” thoughts was supported over several alternative interpretations. We discuss implications for research on the relation between counterfactual thinking and adaptive learning.
Morris, Michael, P. Moore, and D. Sim. "Choosing remedies after accidents: Counterfactual thoughts and the focus on fixing 'human error.'" Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 6, no. 4 (December 1999): 579-585.
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