Young Investor

How safety measures change behaviour

B. Venkatesh | Updated on July 30, 2011

Students need good academic records to get interviews

A person I recently met commented that business school students' attitude towards learning has changed

A person I recently met commented that business school students' attitude towards learning has changed considerably over the last 20 years. Let's look at behavioural psychology to explain this change.

Risk compensation

Suppose you have a car that has no Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). You will drive cautiously, not getting closer to the car in front of you, especially during rainy days when the roads can be slippery. But if your car is equipped with all the modern-day safety features such as ABS and traction control, chances are you may tailgate the car in front of you. Why? You are confident that the safety features in the car will help you control you the vehicle better.

Your perception of risk changed the way you behaved. And your perception changed due to the circumstances - driving a car with more safety features. Behavioural psychologists call this “risk compensation”. You and I accept a certain level of risk in all our activities. If that perceived level of risk changes, we are likely to alter our behaviour to compensate for the perceived change.

Changes in student attitude

Similarly, the change in business school student behaviour may also be due to “risk compensation”. Consider an MBA program where students are told that the institution will not offer a campus placement. Students therefore have to get a job based on their social networks, but will have to differentiate themselves from others competing for the job. If they get an interview with their prospective employer, they may be able to impress with domain knowledge. But getting the interview call would be difficult unless credentials standout. A good academic performance, hence, becomes important.

But what if the institution offers a campus placement? Getting an interview becomes easy. And students often perceive that getting jobs through campus placement would not be difficult either. The perceived change in risk (getting employment), perhaps, drives the change in attitude - taking academic performance less seriously.

(The author is the founder of Navera Consulting. He can be reached at >

Published on July 30, 2011

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