Collective resilience versus collective vulnerability after disasters- a Social Psychological perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


Disasters seem to strike with increasing frequency in our global community, especially now that we live in an era of almost instant media coverage of each new emergency. Therefore, emergency management and disaster mitigation strategies appear to be increasingly necessary in this post-9/11 world. However, it is debatable whether the world we inhabit has become a more dangerous place to live in, or whether people are now more aware of disasters and are so more risk averse. This may also be influenced by the extensive coverage that many disasters receive, especially now technology allows those affected to broadcast footage of disasters to a global audience as they happen. Despite common expectations that ‘mass panic’ is the dominant response in mass emergencies (Goltz, 1984; Fahy et al., 2011), over 50 years of research, and nearly 500 published articles archived by the US-based Disaster Research Center, have found that communities often cope with disasters and emergencies much better than expected. Rather than fracturing social bonds, disasters can actually bring people together in mutual support and cooperation in ways rarely seen before the disaster. Nevertheless, there is a contrast in perspectives on how people cope with disasters. Firstly, there is the prevailing orthodoxy advocating the concept of ‘vulnerability’ where it is assumed that people will be traumatized by these events, that their capacity to cope with the pressures of everyday life may be compromised as a result, and therefore clinical interventions should be developed to help those traumatized readjust to normal life afterwards. More recently though, a new perspective has emerged that considers the concept of ‘resilience’, where it is argued that both people and organizations cope surprisingly well with adversity, and that behaviour during and after mass emergencies is not so divorced from usual social norms as previously expected. Indeed, both sociological (Tierney and Trainor, 2004; Dynes, 2006) and psychological (Drury et al., 2009a, 2009b; Williams and Drury, 2010) evidence suggest that far from clichéd accounts of mass panic, people and organizations are remarkably resilient both during and after mass emergencies. Therefore, it would seem that approaches to stress and trauma can benefit from the study of collective resilience, and that groups can be considered as a psychological resource that professionals can draw upon to inform their interventions. This chapter will explore the development of models that attempt to explain behaviour during and after mass emergencies, and look at how collective approaches to stress and trauma may help with disaster management and mitigation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisaster Management: Medical Preparedness, Response & Homeland Security
EditorsR. Arora, P. Arora
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherCAB International
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781845939298
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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