Experience with hazardous situations can be a two-edged sword. While the experience obviously gives the individual the opportunity to develop skills and reduce the anxiety about such events, it can also potentially lead to greater risk taking.
So says a recent study on pilots and their experiences flying in hazardous conditions (Pauley, K., O’Hare, D., Mullen, N., and Wiggins, M. “Implicit Perceptions of Risk and Anxiety and Pilot Involvement in Hazardous Events” Human Factors, Vol 50, #5, 2008, p723-733).
The study used the Implicit Attitudes Test (IAT) to measure attitude toward risk. Those pilots with the lowest perception of risk toward flying in hazardous conditions were also the ones who had flown the most often in hazardous conditions.
Since this was a correlation study, it could not be determined if the lowered risk perception was the cause or the effect of experience with hazardous flight, although it might possibly be both.
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