July 25, 2011

Ten Years Later, 9/11 Tragedy Has Wide-Ranging Psychological Impacts

Research examines americans’ reactions over time to terrorist attacks

WASHINGTON—Short-term and long-term psychological effects of the 9/11 attacks spread far beyond New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

A team of psychologists examine the social, political and psychological impacts of the nation’s worst terrorist attack in “9/11:  Ten Years Later,” a special issue of APA’s flagship journal, American Psychologist®. With a dozen peer-reviewed articles, the issue illustrates how psychology is helping people understand and cope with 9/11’s enduring impacts. It also explores how psychological science has helped us understand the roots of terrorism and how to prevent further attacks.

 The articles include:

An Introduction to “9/11: Ten Years Later” - Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, University of California, Irvine

  • A summary explaining the goals of the issue, which explores how the past decade was shaped by the events of 9/11 and their aftermath; lessons learned from individual, community and national responses; and new analyses of psychological research.

The Expulsion from Disneyland: The Social Psychological Impact of 9/11 - G. Scott Morgan, PhD, Daniel C. Wisneski, BA, and Linda J. Skitka, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago 

  • Americans responded to the 9/11 attacks with negative social reactions, such as increased prejudice, as well as positive social reactions, including charitable donations and civic engagement. Psychological theory helps explain why people have such powerful reactions when their way of life is threatened by terrorist attacks.

Americans Respond Politically to 9/11: Understanding the Impact of the Terrorist Attacks and Their Aftermath - Leonie Huddy, PhD, and Stanley Feldman, PhD, Stony Brook University 

  • Research on American political reactions to 9/11 suggests that people support a strong government response to terrorism when they perceive a high risk of future terrorism and feel angry at terrorists. While Americans who were personally affected by the attacks were more likely to feel anxious about terrorism, they were less supportive of overseas military action.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Following the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks: A Review of the Literature among Highly Exposed Populations - Yuval Neria, PhD, Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute; Laura DiGrande, DrPH, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Ben G. Adams, PhD, Columbia University 

  • The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have brought a substantial and enduring burden of posttraumatic stress disorder on those people who lost loved ones, as well as on firefighters and recovery workers. Research over the past decade has broadened the understanding of PTSD following large-scale disasters such as terrorism.

Growing Up in the Shadow of Terrorism: Youth in America After 9/11 - Nancy Eisenberg, PhD, Arizona State University; Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, University of California, Irvine 

  • For most children, the psychological consequences of 9/11 were relatively transient, particularly for those who only watched the events unfold on TV. However, 9/11 may have affected American youth in other ways, in terms of their sociopolitical attitudes and their general beliefs about the world. Parents played important roles in shaping their children’s responses to 9/11.

Post disaster Psychological Intervention Since 9/11 - Patricia J. Watson, PhD, UCLA/Dartmouth; Melissa J. Brymer, PhD, UCLA; and George A. Bonanno, PhD, Teacher’s College, Columbia University 

  • The primary focus of early interventions at disaster sites should be to promote a sense of safety and a calm atmosphere, instill hope, and connect victims and survivors with appropriate resources, according to post-9/11 research used to develop guidelines and strategies for the best post-disaster mental health care.

Other articles in the special issue include: 

  • Intelligence Gathering Post-9/11 - Elizabeth F. Loftus, PhD, University of California, Irvine

  • Communicating About the Risks of Terrorism (or Anything Else) - Baruch Fischhoff, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University

  • Psychology Out of the Laboratory: The Challenge of Violent Extremism - Jeremy Ginges, PhD, New School for Social Research; Scott Atran, PhD, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique–Institut; Jean Nicod, University of Michigan and John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Sonya Sachdeva, PhD, and Douglas Medin, PhD, Northwestern University

  • Impacts of Psychological Science on National Security Agencies Post-9/11 - Susan E. Brandon, PhD, Federal Bureau of Investigation

  • Roles of Human Factors and Ergonomics in Meeting the Challenge of Terrorism - Raymond S. Nickerson, PhD, Tufts University

  • Intelligent Management of Intelligence Agencies: Beyond Accountability Ping-Pong - Philip E. Tetlock, PhD, and Barbara A. Mellers, PhD, University of Pennsylvania

  • What Should We Expect After the Next Attack? - Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, University of California, Irvine; Baruch Fischhoff, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University


Special Issue: “9/11: Ten Years Later,” Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, Special Issue Coordinator/Editor; American Psychologist, Vol. 66, No. 6.

Contact: Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver by email or by phone at (949) 824-9055 or (949) 533-2156.

Full texts of all other articles are available from the APA Public Affairs Office.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.