Religious Beliefs and Responsibility Attributions for Industrial Accidents among Ghanaian Workers

By Gyekye, Seth Ayim; Salminen, Simo | Journal for the Study of Religion : JSR, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Religious Beliefs and Responsibility Attributions for Industrial Accidents among Ghanaian Workers


Gyekye, Seth Ayim, Salminen, Simo, Journal for the Study of Religion : JSR


Introduction

Attribution theory basically deals with how people explain their social world and its many phenomena, and conceptualises their causality and responsibility assignment as either logical or biased. According to the literature on causal attribution and accidents, attributional distortions are quite common in novel and ambiguous situations (Wong & Weiner, 1981 ) such as occurrences in industrial accidents (Dejoy, 1994; Turner & Pidgeon, 1997). As industrial accidents tend to afford fertile grounds for causal and responsibility attributional distortions, the work environment seems to be the appropriate domain to examine evidence of these biases and distortions. An example of such attributional distortion occurs when people make use of self-protective mechanisms to project blame for their personal failures onto external circumstances. This has been labelled the Self-defensive Attribution Hypothesis (Shaver, 1970; Walster, 1966). The defensive attribution hypothesis has been confirmed in laboratory studies (see Chaikin 6k Darley, 1973) and received empirical support from workplace research (Gyekye, 2001; Gyekye & Salminen, 2004; Kouabenan et al., 2001).

Religious Beliefs and Social Behaviour

Religion plays an essential role in human meaning system by providing a frame of reference for interpreting a whole range of experiences. For example, a person's religious beliefs impact on his/her personal response to illness, tragedies, accidents and misfortunes. This relationship between religious beliefs and human behaviour has intrigued both the earlier (see Allport, 1953; Durkheim, 1951; james, 1902) and contemporary (see Chatters, 2000; Levin, 1997; Levin & Chatters, 1998) researchers in the psychology of religion. By using religious beliefs as a framework, researchers have examined and found different personality constructs for adults (Wade & Kirkpatrick, 2002), as well as important links between people's socio-religious beliefs and their attitudes and behaviour (Levin, 1997; Weaver & AgIe, 2002). In corroboration with these findings, researchers on the sociology of religion (Ajzen, 1996; Chatters, 2000; Levin, 1997; Levin & Chatters, 1998; Kenworthy, 2003) have all noted that belief in God plays a causal or explanatory role in human behaviour.

Remarking on the applicability of attribution concepts to the psychology of religion, Spilka et al. (1985) have noted that attributional activity consists, in part, of an individual's attempt to understand events and interpret them in terms of some broad meaning-belief system. According to these experts, most people have at their disposal three separate explanatory systems: (i) a set of naturalistic or secular schémas, and (ii) a set of religious schémas (e.g., God, Satan, evil activities) or (iii) to some combination of these two factors, which may or may not be used in a mutually exclusive manner.

The Current Study

Despite the relevance of religion and its influence on several aspects of social behaviour, studies on attribution processes, biases, and distortions have typically been limited to explanations of social behaviour outside the work environment (see Kenworthy, 2003; Weeks ¿a Lupfer, 2000). In effect, socio-religious beliefs that relate to fatalism, determinism, and beliefs about accident causality, which all play a central role in attribution theory have therefore not been adequately investigated. To the degree that belief in God and the supernatural play a causal or explanatory role in behaviour, they necessitate an exploratory examination in accident causality and responsibility assignment. The current study was thus designed to fill in the paucity. Consequently, it examines how religious beliefs, as dimensions of socio-cultural values, are related to the assignment of causality and responsibility for industrial accidents among Ghanaian industrial workers. Specifically, (i) it compares causality attributions for accident occurrence between workers affiliated with Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religions and (ii) their accident frequency. …

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