Training for Dangerous Task Performance: The Effects of Expectations and Feedback

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The training of individuals to perform dangerous tasks confronts theorists and practitioners with a critical issue: To what extent should individuals be exposed during training to stressors that characterize the conditions under which the task will eventually be performed? The present study evaluated two variables that might help resolve this dilemma. The first, a personality variable, consists of a person's generalized expectation that he or she will not be physically hurt while exposed to danger. The other, which is more sitution‐specific, consists of the feeling of success or failure that the trainee experiences at the conclusion of training under physically dangerous conditions. The quality of soldiers' performance and the intensity of experienced stress were tested in a combat simulation. Individuals who tend to assign a low probability to their being physically injured in dangerous situations were found to benefit more from dangerous than from non‐dangerous training. The opposite was found for individuals who assign a high probability to their being injured in dangerous situations. Moreover, exposure to serious physical threats during training yielded better training results than training that did not involve such threats only when the subjects concluded their training with a feeling of success. The subjective feelings of success or failure had no effect, however, under training conditions that did not expose trainees to danger. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-373
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1988


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