Terrorism is to create a state of terror and fear. Therefore it is important to study the psychological factors and to understand and mitigate our response to terrorism. It is the creation of states of mind, of reducing people’s resilience and will to resist, and causing such psychological and social pressure that eventually the political aims of a terrorist group will be fulfilled. This book is not about the prevention of terrorism, but concerned with the consequences of acts of terror and their impact on populations. It describes what citizens, professionals and governments can do to mitigate the consequences. The focus is less on the 'timeless' or 'universal' trauma reactions captured by labels such as post traumatic stress disorder, but more on culture and place specific reactions. A comparison is made between the responses visible in Russia (large scale adversity) and the western reaction (a cultural shift towards an age of anxiety and risk aversion). Also 'new' terrorism (chemical, biological and nuclear terrorism) is discussed, but in practice most terrorist attacks remain steadfastly conventional. A last topic is communication; such as communication between government and its citizens; between terrorists themselves, between terrorists and citizens and between citizens themselves. People talking to each other in the immediate aftermath of terrorist incidents gives much needed support and reassurance. More attention needs to be given to assisting these normalising processes and more needs to be done to safeguard such communications in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack.
Jennifer S. Lerner, Roxana M. Gonzalez, Deborah A. Small, Baruch Fischhoff
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The aftermath of September 11th highlights the need to understand how emotion affects citizens' responses to risk. It also provides an opportunity to test current theories of such effects. On the basis of appraisal-tendency theory, we predicted opposite effects for anger and fear on risk judgments and policy preferences. In a nationally representative sample of Americans (N=973, ages 13–88), fear increased risk estimates and plans for precautionary measures; anger did the opposite. These patterns emerged with both experimentally induced emotions and naturally occurring ones. Males had less pessimistic risk estimates than did females, emotion differences explaining 60 to 80% of the gender difference. Emotions also predicted diverging public policy preferences. Discussion focuses on theoretical, methodological, and policy implications.
Terrorism caused by chemical, biological or nuclear agents differs from terrorism using explosive forces. It is argued that ideal situations are created to attribute a wide variety of vague, systemic symptoms to environmental stimuli. A series of laboratory studies is discussed showing symptom learning in response to odorous chemical substances: the experience of a few symptom episodes in association with such substances is sufficient to subsequently feel symptoms upon perceiving the substances alone. This is more likely when the substances are foul smelling or endowed with negative meanings. Persons tending to negative moods and emotions appear more vulnerable to these processes. Implications for medically unexplained symptoms are discussed.
October 2002, 800 plus hostages were held for three days in a Moscow theater by suicidal terrorists armed with bombs. The stand-off ended when Russian Special Forces gassed and stormed the theater. One hundred thirty of the hostages died. The authors – an American psychologist and colleagues from the Russian Academy of Sciences began to collaborate soon after the event. This article reports on eleven hostage interviews regarding their psychological responses to captivity including their expressions of Stockholm syndrome.
The Social Stage Model of Disasters is examined as a parallel to natural responses to terrorism. After a shared upheaval, people tend to go through an emergency phase when they talk about the event, followed by a drop in talking during a longer inhibition phase. Thoughts of the event still weigh heavily on people's minds until the adaptation phase when social and physiological patterns stabilize. New methodological and analytical tools have enabled the study of immediate reactions to natural disasters, collective trauma, and terrorist attacks. These include the Electronically-Activated Recorder (EAR), which captures how people congregate and talk to or avoid others. Also, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a software program that analyzes psychological states through linguistic markers, has been applied to language samples from various internet forums for communication before, during, and after shared upheavals. A review of the research using these recent technological developments suggests that terrorism can have the unintended effects of encouraging affiliation, strengthening values, and reaffirming identities. The findings further suggest that distancing, a natural phase in the course of crises and challenges, may be helpful when faced with terrorism. The Internet will continue to be a valuable venue for both victims and researchers.
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