Workload, Risks, and Goal Framing as Antecedents of Shortcut Behaviors

James W. Beck, Abigail A. Scholer, Aaron M. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: Shortcut behaviors are methods of completing a task that require less time than typical or standard procedures. These behaviors carry the benefit of increasing efficiency, yet can also carry risks (e.g., of an accident). The purpose of this research is to understand the reasons individuals engage in shortcut behaviors, even when doing so is known to be risky. Design/Methodology/Approach: We present two laboratory studies (N = 121 and N = 144) in which participants performed an air traffic control simulation. Participants could improve efficiency by taking shortcuts; that is, by sending aircraft off the prescribed flight paths. This design allowed for direct and unobtrusive observation of shortcut behaviors. Findings: Individuals who were told that efficiency was an obligation tended to believe that shortcut behaviors had utility for managing high workloads, even when the risks associated with shortcuts were high. Downstream, utility perceptions were positively related to actual shortcut behavior. Implications: Although communicating risks may be used to help individuals balance the “pros” and “cons” of shortcut behaviors, goal framing is also important. Subtle cues indicating that efficiency is an obligation can lead to elevated perceptions of the utility of shortcut behaviors, even when knowing that engaging in shortcut behaviors is very risky. Originality/Value: Past research has provided limited insights into the reasons individuals sometimes engage in shortcut behaviors even when doing so is known to be risky. The current research speaks to this issue by identifying workload and obligation framing as antecedents of the decision to take shortcuts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-440
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Goals
  • Motivation
  • Obligations
  • Shortcut behaviors
  • Utility


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