Tag Archives: psychology

Fear of Terrorism

As terrorism becomes more prevalent within a society, concerns about the psychological effects are brought to the forefront. The psychological effects of terrorism, in general, should have an impact on the ability of law enforcement and the public to interface appropriately. A recent study by Bleich, Gelkopf, and Solomon (2003) of the psychological effects of terrorism on the public in Israel showed surprisingly low levels of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms despite high incidences of direct exposure to terror events. This study demonstrated that, although up to a third of the respondents acknowledged a “limited sense of safety and substantial distress [they] reported adapting to the situation without substantial mental health symptoms and impairment, and most sought various ways of coping with terrorism and its ongoing threats [, possibly linked to] processes of adaptation and accommodation” (p. 619). The study found that the most effective and widely used coping mechanism was checking on the well-being of friends and family. As people tend to cope well with trauma, attitudes towards protective measures seem to acquiesce for the common good, and this can be assistive to law enforcement.

One of the protective measures people tend to adopt that would help law enforcement is a sense of hypervigilance (Bleich, Gelkopf, & Solomon, 2003). Hypervigilance allows the people to be more attentive to things out of the ordinary (e.g. unattended packages, suspicious loitering, anxious mannerisms of others, et al.). This promotes a line of communication with law enforcement not only regarding terrorism but for other criminal activity, also.

Another protective measure, which goes towards acquiescence, is the ability of the people, in general, to accept an increased presence of law enforcement in their daily lives. When faced with a proximal event, the bulk of the citizenship contend that it is, indeed, a function of government to protect the masses from further harm, and these citizens tend to accept limits on personal liberty for perceived increases in security (Klein, 2007). This is a double-edged sword, however. People tend to want to return to a normal state of affairs (Bleich, Gelkopf, & Solomon, 2003). Though an increased police presence is initially welcomed and embraced, the people will eventually resent the loss of liberty and require law enforcement presence to recede. How this occurs will either enhance or detract from the ongoing relationship with law enforcement. An example of this is easy to see when considering both local law enforcement and the federal effort of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Local law enforcement seems to have decreased their presence, at least in my area, and are respectfully viewed as helpful, whereas the TSA, an agency that continues to irrationally impede on liberty, is viewed negatively by the traveling public.

Law enforcement is a service-based industry where the public is the customer. Police need to understand both the rights and the fears of the people in order to maintain the appropriate level of service, which waxes and wanes.


Bleich, A., Gelkopf, M, & Solomon, Z. (2003). Exposure to terrorism, stress-related mental health symptoms, and coping behaviors among a nationally representative sample in Israel. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(5), 612-620.

Klein, L. (2007). Civil liberties and national security in the post 9-11 era: State power and the impact of the USA Patriot Act. Conference Papers – American Sociological Association, 1-8.

“Preventive Medicine”

Passing judgment without the ability to review the context troubles me. Judging an act without seeing the evidence makes no basis for academic discussion regarding the motives or outcome. This exercise will have us judge the actions of a fictional surgeon, whose situations are probably based on facts, during the Korean conflict. Being that this surgeon is a character in a widely available syndicated television show, it surprises me that the particular episode is not available for review. I have taken the time to track down the episode and review it before making comment.

The text (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2009) does state that utilitarians believe that “everyone should perform that act or follow that moral rule that will bring about the greatest good (or happiness) for everyone concerned” (p. 42); however, this description fails to identify the scope and practice of such notions. Whom does this act or rule concern? When does this act or rule gain application? At what point does the actor have enough evidence to make the judgement?

With regards to the M*A*S*H episode[1] (Metcalfe, Reeder, & Mordente, 1979), who is to say that the actions of Col. Lacey did not ultimately save more lives through the heroism of those that he led? Was Lt. Col. Lacey on the verge of improving the tactics of the U. S. Army? Did the unnecessary surgery of Lt. Col. Lacey cost even more lives, then? Lt. Col. Lacey addresses his injured troops, “Your performance over the last few days has given me the confidence to submit a plan to ICOR, a plan for our BN to spearhead a counter-offensive up hill 403, and this time, men, we are going to take it.” This seems to suggest that Lt. Col. Lacey has developed and refined a tactical plan that he feels will prove successful.

In the next sequence, Capt. Pierce questions Col. Lacey’s motives but fails to allow him to answer, putting words in his mouth, and ascribing his own thoughts to Col. Lacey’s motives. After overhearing the Colonel speaking with his General, Capt. Pierce formulates his plan of removing, at least temporarily, Lt. Col. Lacey from his command, and after the successful harvest of a healthy appendix, more injured troops arrive at the 4077. Capt. Honeycut sums up his partner’s actions very simply, “You treated a symptom; the disease goes merrily on.”

After watching the episode and paying special attention to the premise, it seems, at least to me, that this episode deals more with the psychology of Capt. Pierce than with his ethics. It is the psychology of the situation that forces Pierce to act on the situation, in hopes that what he does has an overall positive effect. It does not. Separating ethics from psychology is a mistake, in my opinion. Our psychology changes our perspective and, therefore, should be considered when ethical questions arise.

Utilitarian? The motives of Capt. Pierce were of a self-interested nature. He wanted to feel that he did something instead of standing idle. In my opinion, Capt. Pierce did not have the requisite knowledge to make the utilitarian judgment. I would have done as Col. Potter did in this episode. He notified the upper command of his concerns so that they may be evaluated by people in the position to make a substantive evaluation of a battalion commander.


Metcalfe, B. [Producer], Reeder, T. [Writer], & Mordente, T. [Director]. (1979, February 19). “Preventive Medicine” [Television episode]. M*A*S*H. Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox.

Thiroux, J. P., & Krasemann, K. W. (2009). Ethics: Theory and practice (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


1. “Preventive Medicine” was the 22nd episode of the seventh season of M*A*S*H.

Summary – Public Health Theory: Social Cognitive Theory

Building on Social Learning Theory, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) (as cited in Bandura, 1989; U.S. Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 2005) has been a mainstay in psychology since 1986 when Albert Bandura explored the relationship between the individual, his or her personal traits, the physical environment, and society, and how each of theses factors impact and influence the others. Since this time, SCT has shown to have increasing applicability across the spectrum of health education. Using SCT to focus on these relationships, the health practitioner can understand that individuals are able to overcome obstacles to their health with an increased sense of responsibility, motivation, and control (U.S. Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 2005). By allowing an individual to understand that they can shape their environment just as their environment shapes them, the individual regains their locus of control, motivation, and sense of self.

A dynamic process, SCT has been used successfully to assess treatment techniques, improving on areas lacking in benefit. Brand and Nyland (2009) identify that 30-35% of patients with anterior cruciate ligament repair do not recover to their preinjury level of activity participation; however, they have identified that, using SCT, bolstering pre- and postoperative self-efficacy levels could ultimately improve a patient’s return to the preinjury activity level. Analyzing and identifying psychological factors which inhibit a sense of self-efficacy, allow the health practitioner more opportunity to improve overall success in surgery and rehabilitation.

In recent years, innovative researchers have been exploring other positive roles where SCT may be employed, including the creation of internet-based grief counseling programs. Dominick et al., (2009) show that identification of an individual’s grieving style can assist with forming adaptive cognitive therapies which, even provided in an online format, can assist the uncomplicated griever by positively affecting attitude, self-efficacy, and increasing knowledge about their personal grieving style.

SCT’s adaptive and dynamic nature allows for the health practitioner to analyze a problem and apply the theory’s constructs to change as much or as little as necessary for the development of a working solution with specific focus and control. In this way, SCT allows program development to follow a structured and informed methodology allowing a higher percentage of success.


Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), six theories of child development. Annals of child development, 6, 1-60. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Brand, E. & Nyland, J. (2009, May). In D. L. Johnson (Ed.), patient outcomes following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: the influence of psychological factors. Orthopedics, 32(5), 335-340.

Dominick, S. A., Irvine, A. B., Beauchamp, N., Seeley, J. R., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Doka, K. J., Bonanno, G. A. (2009). An internet tool to normalize grief. Omega: Journal of Death & Dying, 60(1), 71-87. doi:10.2190/OM.60.1.d

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. (2005, September). Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice (NIH Publication No. 05-3896). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/PDF/481f5d53-63df-41bc-bfaf-5aa48ee1da4d/TAAG3.pdf