Simon Hardegger, Psychologist, Switzerland

«Overconfidence is risky»

Simon Hardegger is director of the Centre of Diagnostics, Traffic Psychology and Safety Psychology.

"Future employees at nuclear power plants must act deliberately in every sense of the word, they must notice things and be able to properly classify them despite complex processes, avoid rushed decisions, demonstrate good psychomotor skills, be social and a team player, accept criticisms and mistakes, and maintain a high level of attention in monotonous situations. We test these traits at the Institute for Applied Psychology at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Examining the mental capacity of future nuclear power plant employees is done in accordance with a federal regulation and is monitored by ENSI. When it comes to the demands on police officers, for example, who we also test, there is more in common than you would think. Police officers as well as nuclear power plant employees have to be very conscientious, dutiful and reliable. A certain modesty for one's tasks is important. Overconfidence in both professions is risky and should be avoided. There is a danger of subjective underestimation of the potential danger and overestimation of one's own ability to influence a situation. But unlike a nuclear power plant employee, a police officer has to act in a very interactive manner and be able, for example, to assess their effect on others and de-escalate socially dangerous situations. In addition to a strong team orientation, nuclear power plant employees require a culture to deal with mistakes, which includes openness, as well as a feel for monotonous yet highly complex work. The typical employee of a nuclear power plant is a male from the field of technology who is over the age of 30. He wants to settle down, is technologically adept and likes a regulated, pre-planned environment. Among the tests conducted in the centre are role simulations in which psychologists present a realistic scenario and assess the reaction of those being tested according to given criteria. From the first meeting up until the last day, the continuous testing follows a guideline so that we can include as objective a result as possible in the recommendation to the nuclear power plants."

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