Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 421–440 | Cite as

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

  • James W. BeckEmail author
  • Abigail A. Scholer
  • Aaron M. Schmidt
Original Paper



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Shortcut behaviors Utility Obligations Motivation Goals 



This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant (SSHRC #435-2014-1263) awarded to James W. Beck. Study 1 was presented at the 29th meeting of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists in Honolulu, HI. We’d like to thank Gillian Yeo for her helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • James W. Beck
    • 1
    Email author
  • Abigail A. Scholer
    • 1
  • Aaron M. Schmidt
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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