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Human adaptation to danger
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), Ledarskapscentrum.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9990-2877
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 [en]
Peacekeeping, Disaster, Earthquake, Life-Threat, Danger, Stress, Reactions, Performance, Adaptation, Coping
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Ledarskap under påfrestande förhållanden
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-3343ISBN: 91-628-4711-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:fhs-3343DiVA: diva2:586330
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
List of papers
1. Psychological reactions and experiences among Swedish citizens resident in Kobe during the 1995 earthquake
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Psychological reactions and experiences among Swedish citizens resident in Kobe during the 1995 earthquake
1999 (English)In: International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, ISSN 0280-7270, Vol. 17, no 2, 185-205 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper discusses reactions and experiences of temporary residents and transients in a community struck by a major natural disaster. A retrospective questionnaire study was conducted among a group of Swedish citizens who were resident in Kobe during the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake. Respondents describe aspects of their behavior before, during, and after the earthquake. The findings indicate that, as a group, the Swedes appear to have coped well, even though they were not well-prepared for this type of situation. One factor found to be related to the behavioral responses was ability to speak the local language, in this case Japanese. On the basis of the study results, some particular needs and resources of foreign residents are discussed.  

National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Ledarskap under påfrestande förhållanden
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-3275 (URN)
Available from: 2013-01-09 Created: 2013-01-09 Last updated: 2017-01-04Bibliographically approved
2. Why do people sometimes fail when adapting to danger?: A theoretical discussion from a psychological perspective.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Why do people sometimes fail when adapting to danger?: A theoretical discussion from a psychological perspective.
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.

National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Ledarskap under påfrestande förhållanden
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-3335 (URN)
Available from: 2013-01-11 Created: 2013-01-11 Last updated: 2017-01-04Bibliographically approved
3. Reactions and Performance of Swedish Peacekeepers in Life-Threatening Situations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reactions and Performance of Swedish Peacekeepers in Life-Threatening Situations
2002 (English)In: International Peacekeeping, ISSN 1353-3312, E-ISSN 1380-748X, Vol. 9, no 1, 133-152 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study maps reactions activated in peacekeeping personnel by life-threatening situations and explores how these reactions affect psychological functioning. In-depth interviews were carried out with 30 informants from the Swedish peacekeeping force serving in Bosnia between 1993 and 1995. All participants had experienced shooting incidents or other highly threatening events. Two models were formed. A descriptive model structures the content of the interviews according to the phase and type of situation from which they were mainly reported, as well as whether they were mainly reported by officers or privates. A theoretical model forms the basis for a discussion about the individual and situational factors that affect the specific reactions and how their interaction with role expectations affects performance. The informants were generally satisfied with their performance. Two factors associated with lower performance were either that the life-threatening situation implied loss of control or it demanded complex cognitive activity.

National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-2986 (URN)
Available from: 2012-12-05 Created: 2012-12-05 Last updated: 2017-01-04Bibliographically approved
4. Military observers' reactions and performance when facing danger
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Military observers' reactions and performance when facing danger
2004 (English)In: Military Psychology, ISSN 0899-5605, Vol. 16, no 4, 211-229 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Some groups have to face threats and dangers professionally with maintained cognitive functioning, which implies a need to know both the extent to which maladaptive reactions occur and the factors that may affect it. This study examines self-reported reactions and performance when facing risks and dangers on peacekeeping observer missions. The sample consisted of 154 military observers. A self-made questionnaire, including the General Health Questionnaire and the Sense of Coherence (SOC) scale, was used. We found that feelings of invulnerability were common in relation to mission risks. In a specific danger incident, most participants subjectively performed well, although partial loss of cognitive functioning was reported in half of the cases and severely dysfunctional reactions in about one tenth. Cluster analysis showed that self-reported cognitive limitations in danger incidents were related to 2 factors: complicating situational factors, such as high levels of threat, complex decision demands, and minor control possibilities; and individual vulnerability factors, such as general worry and anger, low SOC, anxiety, and psychosomatic symptoms.

National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-2998 (URN)10.1207/s15327876mp1604_1 (DOI)000225373000001 ()
Available from: 2012-12-05 Created: 2012-12-05 Last updated: 2017-01-04Bibliographically approved

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