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Avoiding Distractions That Contribute to Incidents

The human brain makes millions of interpretations each second. This process of analyzing visual information and applying our personal experience and knowledge allow us to simplify complexity. Our brains handle this very quickly during common everyday activities, such as driving or parsing Google search results.

Sometimes the visual information we receive is in opposition with the experience the brain applies to the situation. This interference causes a delayed reaction as the brain attempts to make sense of the information, and is called the Stroop Effect. The Stroop Effect is named after J. Ridley Stroop, and is a strange phenomenon that was discovered in the 1930s.

In the graphic below, please try to name the colors of the following words. Do not read the words, however, rather try to say the color of the words. For example, if the word “blue” is printed in a “red” color, then you should say “red.” Say the colors as fast as you can. Trust me – it’s not as easy as you might think!

Stroop Effect

Did you have to slow down to read the words? Our brains required more time to process the conflicting information. If you attempted to speed up, you’d discover that you made more mistakes.

In the workplace, this conflict can take on many forms. This is especially true in a construction environment, where multiple trades are working together and conditions are ever changing. Extra pre-planning is required to address the hazards that may arise with each task. If we don’t take the time to thoroughly assess and control the risk, especially when dealing with a complex or risky task, we increase the chance for mistakes and injury.