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Why do people sometimes fail when adapting to danger?: A theoretical discussion from a psychological perspective.
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), Ledarskapscentrum.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9990-2877
2001 (English)In: International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, ISSN 0280-7270, Vol. 19, no 2, 145-180 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During life-threatening danger people may react in ways that decrease their chances of surviving or coping with the event. Several empirically demon­strated reactions have a potentially maladaptive effect on per­formance, due to limitations in our cognitive and emotional processing capacity or the activation of obsolete adaptation mechanisms. The possible psychological explanations for this are discussed in terms of assumptions derived from three major psychological paradigms: Darwian, Freudian, and cognitive psychology. These theoretical models all illustrate useful concepts and assumptions, which do not logically exclude one another, necessary to understand more thoroughly how psychological adaptation occurs in danger situations. However, no theory alone explains the empiri­cal find­ings and the various theories should be integrated into a model that includes different levels of psychological function, from consciously controlled processes to emotional and automatic process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2001. Vol. 19, no 2, 145-180 p.
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Ledarskap under påfrestande förhållanden
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-3335OAI: oai:DiVA.org:fhs-3335DiVA: diva2:586279
Available from: 2013-01-11 Created: 2013-01-11 Last updated: 2017-01-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Human adaptation to danger
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Human adaptation to danger
2001 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall purpose of the thesis was to increase knowledge concerning how people adapt psychologically when faced with a real dan­ger incident, and what implications these reactions and adaptation mecha­nisms have upon immediate performance.

The thesis is based on three empirical studies concerning people with per­sonal experience of dangerous incidents. Swedish peacekeeping person­nel who were involved in shooting incidents or other highly threatening events participated in two of these studies. Swedish citizens who were living in Kobe, Japan, during the earthquake of 1995 partici­pated in the third study. Retrospective self-reports included both qualitative and quantitative approaches. More specifically, the research questions focused on the subjec­tive descriptions of personal reactions and performance during dan­gerous situations, the frequency of various reac­tions, and the individual and situ­ational factors that influence reactions and functioning.

On a general level, all groups seem to have performed well during the dangerous encounters they experienced. Severely dysfunctional reactions were rare, but general feelings of invulnerability were commonly reported. During these threatening situations, a partial loss of emotional balance and cognitive functioning was also common. Different individual and situ­a­tional factors appeared to interact with reactions and performance. Factors that were associated with lower performance included whether the danger incident implied a loss of control or if it demanded complex cogni­tive activity.

A fourth and purely theoretical study addressed how assumptions from Darwian, Freudian, and cognitive psychology are supported by empirical disaster research in explaining why people occasionally fail to adapt when danger is present. It was suggested that the different theories could be integrated into a model, in which adapta­tion mechanisms on different psychological levels could be included; from processes that are con­sciously controlled to automatic processes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: Lund University, Department of Psychology, 2001. 179 p.
Keyword
Peacekeeping, Disaster, Earthquake, Life-Threat, Danger, Stress, Reactions, Performance, Adaptation, Coping
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Ledarskap under påfrestande förhållanden
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-3343 (URN)91-628-4711-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2001-04-20, Lund University, 13:15 (English)
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-01-15 Created: 2013-01-11 Last updated: 2017-01-04Bibliographically approved

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