Human factors in avalanche accidents

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Human factors in avalanche accidents

Postby scotthsu » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:43 pm

In recent years, avalanche education curricula have increasingly focused on the role of human factors in avalanche accidents because many believe this is the next frontier in helping to reduce the number of avalanche fatalities per "exposure." The recent, fantastic New York Times feature on the Tunnel Creek incident (2/19/2012), in which 5 people were caught and 3 buried & killed, really highlighted the role of human factors in that terrible tragedy.

Many avalanche textbooks discuss human factors, and these textbook discussions should certainly be read and applied by anyone pursuing snow recreational activities in avalanche terrain, especially by aspiring and novice backcountry travelers. Articles by Ian McCammon and Dale Atkins are also good first reads. In addition, if you Google "human factors avalanches," you will turn up many more resources.

For those interested in pursuing this subject in more depth and at a more scholarly level (especially for avalanche educators), I recommend a fabulous book that really gets into the human pyschology behind "human factors." On the surface, the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, seems to have little to do with avalanche decision-making. However, the subjects discussed in the book are exactly what lead to human-factors-related avalanche accidents and fatalities.

Description of book from

In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.
Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow is destined to be a classic.
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