New study links early explanations of 9/11 to long-term adjustment

Sep 02, 2008

According to new research led by John Updegraff, a Kent State University professor, individuals who are able to quickly make sense of collective traumas such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks cope better in the long run.

The study, which appears in the September issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that finding meaning in the immediate aftermath of the attacks was an important coping response that helped many Americans adjust by reducing their fears of future terrorism.

Dr. Updegraff, an assistant professor of psychology, used a large national sample to examine Americans' responses to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, beginning immediately after the event and continuing for the following two years. Two months following the attacks, respondents were asked about whether they were able to make sense of the attacks.

"Most Americans were trying to find a way to explain why the attacks occurred, but less than half were successful in doing so", says Updegraff. Explanations ranged from blaming the events on either the terrorists or on American foreign policy, focusing on positive consequences of the attacks such as patriotism or greater appreciation of social ties, or interpreting the events in a historical or religious context.

"Regardless of how people explained the events, those who came to some personal understanding of why the attacks occurred fared better over time than those who were unable to", Updegraff says. "They were less plagued by fears of future terrorism and less distressed by the attacks over the following two years."

These findings support the idea that being able to make sense of traumatic events helps people adjust. However, most previous studies have focused on direct personal trauma such as bereavement. This is the first study to find that meaning facilitates adjustment for individuals indirectly exposed to large-scale collective traumas such as terrorist attacks, school shootings, or natural disasters.

Source: Kent State University

Explore further: Research reveals what your sleeping position says about your relationship

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Visions of 1964 World's Fair didn't all come true

9 hours ago

Video phone calls? Yeah, we do that. Asking computers for information? Sure, several times a day. Colonies on the moon and jet packs as a mode of everyday transportation. OK, maybe not.

Instagram photo-sharing service goes down

9 hours ago

Popular photo-sharing site Instagram was not working Saturday, as frustrated users quickly turned to social network Twitter and other web sites to share their complaints.

Power arm band for wearables harvests body heat

14 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A group of Korean researchers have turned their focus on supplying a reliable, efficient power source for wearables. Professor Byung Jin Cho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ...

Amazon 'to release smartphone later this year'

14 hours ago

Amazon is preparing to release a smartphone in the second half of 2014, thrusting itself into a market already crowded with Apple and Samsung models, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

More news stories

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...