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Heavy readers avoid risk

13.11.2006
A teenager who enjoys reading textbooks is likely to be disinclined to take chances – for example in traffic, a SINTEF study for Norway’s Public Roads Administration has found.

“We can see that personality has a certain influence, but that it is far from being decisive in determining whether young people are willing to expose themselves to risk. On the other hand, we find that their attitude to risk is closely related to their learning style – that is, how they prefer to absorb knowledge,” says SINTEF researcher Trine Marie Stene, who is responsible for the report.

Enjoy books – but not risk

Stene utilised a comprehensive questionnaire study of 562 pupils at 11 junior secondary schools in the County of Sør-Trøndelag to measure how far young people’s attitudes to risk were affected by individual differences.

According to her report, young people’s attitudes to risky activities is not automatically determined by their personalities. This suggests that their willingness to take chances does not directly depend on whether or not they suffer from anxiety, whether they are introverted or extraverted, whether they are open or reserved with respect to new experiences or whether they are thoughtful or impulsive.

On the other hand, the report shows that pupils who prefer to learn by reading or by touching and holding objects, and who like to sit at a traditional schooldesk when they are absorbing knowledge, probably have little interest in taking chances.

“This shows that the educational challenges associated with transmitting messages about safety are extra great for all other groups of pupils,” says Stene.

“The main message here is that it is wrong to treat everyone in the same way when we design information or training campaigns on safety. The means that we employ must be adapted to pupils’ different expectations and wishes,” says Stene, a traffic researcher at SINTEF Technology and Society.

Moped- and car-driver training

Stene says that knowledge from this project could be used, for example, in connection with moped training, accompanied training and possibly with the use of simulators in driving schools.

“This survey could be useful when differentiated training courses based on individual differences are being designed. Some pupils are very visual and have to see everything, while others like to have material presented orally. Yet others prefer to move around when they are learning,” says Stene.

The study showed that fewer than half (40%) of the pupils preferred to learn by listening to the material. As many as one in five dislike learning new things with the healp of their auditory system. About one third like to have material presented visually. About half of the pupils prefer to be actiuve in the learning situation.

According to Stene, this shows that it is important to have some variation in training methods and that pupils should be given the opportunity to learn by touching or working with things, move around and obtain ¿? via their own experiences.

Focus on coping

Both national and international statistics show that young people in the 16- to 24-year-old age group are particularly liable to be involved in road accidents, either as car drivers or passengers. Young male drivers of private cars are particularly vulnerable.

Much of the research that has been done so far on the way young people behave on the road has attempted to identify the factors that raise risk levels so much for just this group.

Trine Marie Stene has adopted a wider perspective in her study. She wished to see how young people learn their attitudes to risk, and what factors characterise those who are willing to take risk and the more safety-oriented ones who prefer to cope with risk. On the basis of the answers to her questionnaire survey, she drew up profiles of the pupils according to where they placed themselves along five axes that describe our personality.

Personality differences were not the most important factor in terms of statistically significant differences, when the pupils were asked about their willingness to take chances

On the other hand, one of the dimensions of personality emerged in connection with the opposite condition – i.e. when preventing accidents was the aim: the material suggested that persons who scored high on the ability to agree with other people and to understand other people’s problems are more concerned about preventing accident than those who do not score high on such abilities.

Contact: trine.m.stene@sintef.no

Aase Dragland | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sintef.no

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