Our minds are primed to put behaviors and attitudes that promote survival in periods of limited resources first. Our subconscious treats groups we identify with different than those we don’t. In stress it becomes very logical to exclude groups we don’t identify with from our thoughts. It actually isn’t logical.
Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Proceedings of National Academy of Science: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/4/1262.full.pdf+html A Dutch study found that individuals that inhaled oxytocin in scenarios were more likely to choose to sacrifice an individual with a foreign sounding name.
Crisis Communications and Cognitive Behavior
Crisis PsychologyHow the Brain Operates Under Stress
Who am I• Carol Dunn• 2Resilience• Previously – Bellevue OEM – Red Cross – Ernst & Young
After a high stress trigger• Most people will be experiencing: – Hyper-vigilance – Searching for patterns – Tightening of ‘in group’ – Inclined to take shortcuts – Willing to suspend disbelief – Open to doing rash things – Post event spike in feeling of vulnerability
Hypervigilance:– Information Vacuum • The higher the stakes, the more likely the official sources will grow very silent for the initial period to coordinate the message. • The higher the stakes the more information the public needs to have • The information vacuum will be filled, but not by whom you want.
Searching for Patterns• Provide Context! – There is a good chance some in the media and the general public are making jumps in logic that are wrong & don’t help
Communication shouldn’t be a loyalty test – “Trust us, the situation is under control and everything is safe.” • In extended situation, assume public are adults looking for enough information to decide for self: provide context with guidance
(The ‘voice’ of your organization may not be who does all the training)• If a situation is really large, chances are someone higher up in social rank may be pushed in front of the cameras – Prepare Just-in-Time messaging training: • Live saving information first • Set a positive narrative early • Be honest, don’t hide information: if can’t share everything, say so and say why. • Be very careful not to repeat rumors • Remind people that we are all in this together • Show compassion.
Changing/Tightening of ‘in group’/Inclined to take shortcuts• Remember whom you need to communicate with: not just people who communicate the way you do.
Willing to suspend disbelief• Expect the population and public assumptions to go in very strange directions – Be ready to be able to counter situations like extreme folk medicine to be treated as valid. – Have a list of solid information sources that will provide people with quality information.
Open to doing rash things• Provide clear, concise and specific guidance to the population about ways they can help or stay safe.
Post event spike in feeling of vulnerability• Warning people to expect a spike in emotions can help reduce the impacts from the spike• Authority figures are a natural target for people to vent frustration-expect it, counter with examples of the positive steps that have been taken, be compassionate• Previous disasters show that this is a dangerous time for ‘out groups’—remind everyone that we are all in this together: the entire community.
• Questions? Comments?• Carol Dunn• email@example.com• @caroldn