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Fear Response Related Behavior


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When our minds perceive direct threats our ability to think clearly is reduced so that we are more likely to respond with 'pro survival' behavioral shortcuts.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Fear Response Related Behavior

  1. 1. After a high stress trigger • Most people will be experiencing: – Hyper-vigilance – Searching for patterns – Tightening of ‘in group’/Linear hierarchy – Inclined to take shortcuts – Willing to suspend disbelief (magical thinking) – Open to doing rash things – Post event spike in feeling of vulnerability
  2. 2. Hyper-vigilance: – 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.
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4. 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.
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. (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.
  7. 7. 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.
  8. 8. Open to doing rash things • Provide clear, concise and specific guidance to the population about ways they can help or stay safe.
  9. 9. 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.
  10. 10. 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.
  11. 11. Some studies & articles on topic – Hyper-vigilance: • Perceived threat narrows the focus of attention – Searching for patterns • Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception – Tightening of ‘in group’ • The role of oxytocin in giving preferential treatment to own group: – Inclined to take shortcuts • Learning: Stressed people use different strategies and brain regions – Willing to suspend disbelief (magical thinking) • Feeling powerless, Do I Have a Conspiracy Theory for You conspiracy-theory-you-221650 – Open to doing rash things • Threat interferes with response inhibition – Post event spike in feeling of vulnerability • Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program Resource Toolkit phases.htm
  12. 12. • Questions? Comments? • Carol Dunn • • @caroldn