Several psychologists joined military, government and industry officials at a Department of Homeland Security-sponsored conference to brainstorm a homeland security curriculum. The curriculum — drawing from behavioral science and with psychologists' input — would train military and civilian homeland security leaders on actions to take when facing terrorist threats.
More than 100 participants from federal, state and local governments, research institutes, academe and related organizations proposed competencies and content areas for executive training, continuing education and interdisciplinary courses during the November conference. The conference was held at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., and sponsored in part by APA, the Coast Guard Academy, the National Academic Consortium on Homeland Security and others.
Suggested curriculum areas reflecting the behavioral sciences included:
Risk assessment, perception and communication.
Human behavior and social dynamics in disasters, such as motivation, values and culture.
Human-centered design of homeland security technologies.
Decision-making dynamics, such as crisis and stress management.
Developing an effective interdisciplinary homeland security curriculum in these and other areas will take collaborative work between psychology and other disciplines, such as sociology, political science, anthropology, geographic sciences and linguistics, says psychologist Felice Levine, PhD, a conference participant and the executive director of the American Educational Research Association.
The conference helped to "plant the seed" of psychologists' involvement in such interdisciplinary efforts, says conference participant Janice H. Laurence, PhD, a member of APA's Div. 19 (Society of Military Psychology).
"There is a need in the country, workplace and elsewhere for psychologists to apply their skills in these areas and to study the content domains that will be good for homeland security," she says.
After all, a person's sense of security is really a psychological state, says conference participant Peter Hancock, PhD, Provost Distinguished Research Professor in the psychology department at the University of Central Florida.
"[Terrorism] is a battle for hearts and minds, not necessarily a battle for skylines and airplanes," Hancock says.
During the conference, participants presented curriculum recommendations to Adm. James Loy, the deputy secretary of Homeland Security. The conference's editorial group will compile all the workgroup recommendations and submit them to the Homeland Security Advisory Council for approval and action, says Geoff Mumford, PhD, APA's director of science policy and a member of the editorial group.