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Crisis Communications and Cognitive Behavior


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Examining the often clumsy intersection between Crisis Communications and Cognitive Behavior.

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Crisis Communications and Cognitive Behavior

  1. 1. Crisis PsychologyHow the Brain Operates Under Stress
  2. 2. Who am I• Carol Dunn• 2Resilience• Previously – Bellevue OEM – Red Cross – Ernst & Young
  3. 3. Photo by bitboy
  4. 4. Brain Evolution Riken Brain Science Institute
  5. 5. • Predators• Competitors• Drought/Famine
  6. 6. • Certain behaviors make survival more likely
  7. 7. The Constant Gardener, Focus Feature
  8. 8. Don’t need to directly experience trigger• Hypervigilance• Positive mood is suppressed• See if other signs: pattern• Be primed to act-help? fight? run? all?
  9. 9. Predator• Some in the group confront the danger• Some in the group rush to help others get away(Both skills are critical)
  10. 10. We put people in groups• In Group/Out Group
  11. 11. • In the right circumstances, our minds can quickly change group classifications
  12. 12. We can switch group classifications quickly
  13. 13. We rank people
  14. 14. Decision makers may feel• Sharing can be dangerous• Showing weakness dangerous• This can lead to a push to withhold information, it is important to push back.
  15. 15. How does it work? Rocky View Schools
  16. 16. Benjamin Asmussen
  17. 17. Impact on Disaster Timeline SAHMSA
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19. How does this influence Communication?
  20. 20. 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.
  21. 21. 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
  22. 22. 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
  23. 23. (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.
  24. 24. 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.
  25. 25. 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.
  26. 26. Open to doing rash things• Provide clear, concise and specific guidance to the population about ways they can help or stay safe.
  27. 27. 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.
  28. 28. • Questions? Comments?• Carol Dunn•• @caroldn