You Can't Yell "Timber!" if You Don't See the Falling Tree: Harnessing Construal Level Theory to Promote the Ethical Framing of Safety Performance Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Keeney, Jonathan
    • Affiliation: Kenan-Flagler Business School
  • Harm is a fundamental ethical concern. Nonetheless, people often fail to see decisions that prevent harm as ethical choices, particularly when harmful outcomes are rare. Drawing on construal level theory, this dissertation proposes and tests a model of how the ethical implications of workplace decisions might be made more salient for workers, leading to more ethical choices. This investigation is undertaken in the context of workplace safety, in which harm prevention is paramount. Specifically, adopting an ethical decision frame (i.e., seeing safety-related decisions as ethical decisions) is predicted to increase safety performance (Hypothesis 1). Lower levels of construal will tend to promote ethical decision frame adoption (Hypothesis 2), particularly when an individual is high in other-orientation (Hypothesis 3). Combined, these predictions suggest a moderated-mediation model in which the indirect effect of construal level on safety performance via ethical decision framing is stronger at higher levels of other-orientation. These predictions are tested in three empirical studies—a quasi-experiment with offshore drilling industry workers (Study 1), a naturalistic, simulation-based laboratory study (Study 2), and a laboratory experiment (Study 3). The results of these studies are mixed, but taken together provide tentative support for the preceding hypotheses. Contributions, practical implications, and future directions are discussed.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Hoffman, David A.
  • Smith-Crowe, Kristin
  • Christian, Michael
  • Gray, Kurt
  • Desai, Sreedhari
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017

This work has no parents.