Risk: and socially-motivated decision-making errors - Mountain Buzz
 

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Old 08-12-2016   #1
 
San Jose, CA, California
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Risk: and socially-motivated decision-making errors

I just read this paper on Avalanche Saftey that contends that:

"93 percent of every avalanche accident studied in the United States has, at its roots, socially-motivated decision-making errors made by the people involved"

Re-thinking Avalanche Safety

I was wondering if folks interpretation of kayaking accidents were similar to what the data shows in this study of avalanche accidents? Does socially-motivated decision-making contribution to the majority of kayaking accidents? If so how to me attempt to mitigate this type of risk?

I think it is relly challenging to reduce social motivation as it is defined in the post. However, after reading the actual paper
http://www.monosar.org/safety_articl...tors_traps.pdf
I better understand how the author is defining social motivation and its connection to increased risk.

On one hand in kayaking we look to our mentors to show us new runs and skills hopefully, they are good leaders and thus better able to manage social motivation type risk. Hopefully, we are selves are aware of this also.

On the other side I sure many kayakers have found them selves in these types of situations. For example, I live in CA now and it does not rain often. Last winter it did rain and one weekend and every kayaker decided to run E to P on the Yuba. The water was higher than normal, and there were club boaters and others combining to this mega group a the Putin. I think people felt like it was a bad situation but no one stepped up and encouraged folks to understand the social motivation that may be increasing the risk of the run that day. We had scarcity, of rain-fed flows, social facilitation, commitment, etc.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this is to try and plan trips from the begging with small groups of folks I trust to be good leaders and so that the traps of socially motivated decision making to do not overly affect the risk of our trip. Even it this creates social conflict it is a better alternative to increased risk.

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Old 08-12-2016   #2
 
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I expect the social side of thing has an impact, sure. In the Class IV-V realm, I don't see much in the way of explicit peer pressure -- generally if someone decides they don't want to run a Class V rapid on a particular day, its not a good idea to try and convince them otherwise and I a lot of boaters realize that, at least within the groups I paddle with. And I think whitewater is a little different than backcountry skiing in that the dangers in backcountry skiing can be tougher to notice, while the dangers of a particular rapid are usually a little better known, at least on the whole. Nevertheless, I think just about anyone who has been boating for a few years knows the difference between being out with a group where everyone walks a particular rapid vs. a situation where you're the only one in a group walking a particular rapid. If you're boating with two different groups, same rapid, it's still going to feel different if you're the only one shouldering your boat.

I'm not interested in paddling with anyone who gives someone a hard time for not running a particular rapid or a particular run on a particular day, particularly if we're talking about anything over Class III. I think that is a pretty good step towards avoiding these issues. I think it's also worth having an explicit conversation about safety and the hazards of a particular water level etc. I'm usually pretty good about doing that on expedition style runs, but it's not something I do before running roadside Black Rock for the 100th time, though maybe it's still worth doing there as well.
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Old 08-12-2016   #3
 
Klamath Falls, Oregon
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This is a great subject. I went down the GC last Dec for the first time. I couldn't find anyone to go and wanted to go so badly that I went with people I didn't know. I wanted to go so badly that I ignored a lot of red flags. It wasn't until about day two that I finally admitted to myself that I had made some poor decisions. It all turned out ok but I've studied these types of errors since then. Bruce Tremper's Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain is a great book that goes into detail about the type of thinking errors that lead an experienced skier to trigger an avalanche. It is not nessesarily overt peer pressure but errors like follow the leader, goal directed thinking, and scarcity of resource. These errors can be subconscious. It would be interesting to study and learn about these heuristic traps and see how they would apply to whitewater accidents. This of course does not apply to the inexperienced.

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Old 08-12-2016   #4
 
Western Slope, CO, Colorado
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I think half of the real issue goes much deeper and further back than what happens the day that an accident happens. I agree with all the points of the article as to what can be deduced from evidence on the day an accident happens, but in my experience, accidents usually happen when 2 negative forces both exert their influences on a person or group coincidentally.
Whether Back Country Skiing, Rock Climbing, Mountaineering, Kayaking or any other high risk activity, Risk taking tends to be exaggerated in people living or coming from high density environments and all starts with an inherent sense of competitiveness. This competitiveness is constantly preyed upon by gear vendors with an assault of pictures of someone ' better than them shooting down a mountain couloir on a snowboard, climbing a Yosemite big wall, going down a huge falls in a kayak, etc. Risk sells gear.
That all leads a person to want to be ' that ' person or at least strive to be ' that ' person and actively plan to do that someday. Well, someday comes and since most high density people don't live where those events happen, a trip, and time off must be planned. Mother nature is just going to have to work around that.
Well, mother nature doesn't do what we would hope most of the time, so concessions will have to be made. The weather is bad, but the peak is just right there. The water is just a little high, but I have an experienced friend along. The climb is a little harder than I usually climb, but I'll just aid if I get into trouble. The report said there is Avy danger on SW slopes, but we're going down a SE slope. All just excuses because of needing to do a certain thing on a certain day.
The list is endless and is usually in the conclusion section of accident reports if they are made.
Risk needs to be evaluated from the perspective of what a person is willing to suffer. A person with a family, for instance, is an idiot for climbing big mountains, kayaking class 5, skiing down steep couloirs or lead climbing trad.
Anyone who does want to do those things anyway, family or not, needs to look deep into themselves and understand why they are doing it. If it merely to impress others, or to try and duplicate feats of others, then they should find a different way to externalize those feelings.
Plenty of fun can be had by skiing the ridge down. Climbing well within ones ability, IE... a 5.10 climber is someone who can climb ANY 5.10, not one that has climbed just a few. Kayaking at slightly higher water levels and difficulties each time until experience catches up and realizing the river will still be there next year, and the year after.

Don't get goal oriented, but rather be fun oriented. A goal oriented person who looks deeply and honestly enough into themselves will usually find someone else is driving them.
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Old 08-12-2016   #5
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It doesnt really say they were skiers. I'm betting that the majority of those avalanche deaths were on snowmobiles. Which means they are recliner jockeys with 50K worth of gear and no idea of reality other than televised Nascar. Kayaking on the other hand requires a learning commitment that cant be bought. And with that comes a sense of ones own ability compared to the physical world. That, and a lack of rednecks yeehawing over your shoulder.
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Old 08-12-2016   #6
 
Sacramento, California
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Reading these posts, I can't help but wonder how anyone progresses with the idea of, "I haven't done anything at this level yet, so I shouldn't do it". At some point, we always have to reach a little out of our experience level to advance, as every step up is, by it's very nature, something you haven't done yet.

I agree we have to evaluate our skills, and the risk we are willing to take, but you do have to eventually push just outside your comfort zone to advance. Just do it with some research and understanding of the risks first.

It's definitely nice to get honest evaluation from other people. So often, I see people saying how ready X person is for X run, when they really aren't. But then you have other people who are very ready to step up, but don't.

I guess the biggest thing is to be as knowledgeable as you can, don't step up too rapidly, and be aware of the risks you are taking. It's a good idea to surround yourself with good experienced paddlers when stepping up.
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Old 08-12-2016   #7
 
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I think the assumption that most of these were couch jockey snowmobilers is a bad one. If you look at the avalanche deaths from the past couple of years, there are more skiiers and snowboarders than snowmobilers: Avalanche.org - Avalanche Accidents Database - Current Season

A person with a family, for instance, is an idiot for climbing big mountains, kayaking class 5, skiing down steep couloirs or lead climbing trad.
That's a ridiculous statement. All of those activities can involve manageable levels of risk depending on your skill level.

I agree with bystander's point about surrounding yourself with experienced people when stepping up, regardless of the sport. I'd add that it's hard to tell one of your buddies you think they should probably sit out a particular run or rapid. If someone suggests to you that X run or rapid may be over your head, think long and hard about that advice.
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Old 08-12-2016   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColoradoDave View Post
Risk needs to be evaluated from the perspective of what a person is willing to suffer. A person with a family, for instance, is an idiot for climbing big mountains, kayaking class 5, skiing down steep couloirs or lead climbing trad.
Anyone who does want to do those things anyway, family or not, needs to look deep into themselves and understand why they are doing it. If it merely to impress others, or to try and duplicate feats of others, then they should find a different way to externalize those feelings.

Don't get goal oriented, but rather be fun oriented. A goal oriented person who looks deeply and honestly enough into themselves will usually find someone else
is driving them.
Your post has some interesting generalizations in it, not all of which resonate with me. I can't speak from experience about any of these sports but kayaking but your characterizing anyone who has a family and boats class 5 as an idiot is seriously off the mark. I get that that is how you evaluate your skills and your exposure but judging all others by your perspective runs contrary to the whole ethic of boating and risk taking IMHO. Class 5 is a very broad category and there are people with skills that can run "easy" class 5 with less risk than your average class 4 boater. And these choices are always personal. You also miss the most relevant part of boating for many of us. I am sometimes goal oriented, learned to row a raft last year so I could row the Grand for the first time last season at age 65, am usually fun oriented, but my relationship with boating and the river is primarily spiritual. Perhaps there is a deeper motivation and connection that you are missing.
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Old 08-15-2016   #9
 
basalt, Colorado
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Risk needs to be evaluated from the perspective of what a person is willing to suffer. A person with a family, for instance, is an idiot for climbing big mountains, kayaking class 5, skiing down steep couloirs or lead climbing trad.
Anyone who does want to do those things anyway, family or not, needs to look deep into themselves and understand why they are doing it. If it merely to impress others, or to try and duplicate feats of others, then they should find a different way to externalize those feelings.


Don't get goal oriented, but rather be fun oriented. A goal oriented person who looks deeply and honestly enough into themselves will usually find someone else is driving them.[/QUOTE]


I would implore Dave to ask the family man or woman why they are "climbing big mountains, kayaking class 5, skiing down steep couloirs or lead climbing trad." I'm guessing more than a few would explain that their dad, mom, or both were the "idiots" who taught them to do such and instilled in them a love for adventures that outdoors can offer above and beyond the confines of a "non-idiot" life behind the desk, so to speak. Disclaimer: I spend a few hours a week behind a desk, (as little as I can), most of which makes me feel like an idiot for not being in the mountains "living life to the fullest".
I hear your point about the family man, however the ones I consider friends take risk into account while exposing a younger generation to the beauties that the natural world has to offer.
Also, as hard as it is to believe in this day and age, not everyone out there having fun and pushing their own personal limits does such for the golden glow of YouTube and mountain buzz 'likes'. Oh sorry, I forgot to add Vimeo and go pro.

As for not being goal oriented, Mr. Edison, the Wright brothers, and MLK JR. may take exception


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Old 08-16-2016   #10
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Back to the original post, I do a lot of solo playing and assess things (including risk) differently while doing so. Being even more conservative. With group activities, I certainly do see some less than ideal dynamics at play as they relate to risk taking. Certainly something to take into account. Don't be reluctant to speak up if u are uneasy about things. Gut feelings count for a lot. Don't hesitate to bail even if everybody else is "going for it". Live for today (and tomorrow)!
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