When International Crisis, Terrorism, and War Hit Home
Participant Idea Exchange Handout, 24th National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology

Linda M. Woolf, Ph.D.
Main web page: http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/
Peace and Conflict Page: http://www.webster.edu/~woolfl/peacelinks.html
Holocaust and Genocide Studies Pages http://www.webster.edu/~woolfl/holocaust.html
Webster University

The events beginning with the terrorist attacks on September 11 have had an impact on our students, our selves, and our classrooms. Immediately following the attacks in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania, queries were posted on the various psychology listservs with questions as to deal with the events in our classrooms and how to help our students cope. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this crisis is over and the ramifications in terms of further threat, terrorist activities, and war will continue for some time to come. This participant idea exchange will provide an opportunity for teachers of psychology to come together to discuss what worked and what didn╣t work in their classroom and at their school, college, or university as well as discuss their thoughts and feelings related to trying to teach immediately following and during such crises. This handout includes resource information related to coping for students/faculty, possible lecture and classroom discussion topics on a variety of topics such as material related to prejudice, religion, post-traumatic stress, as well as resources related to the integration of the peace psychology literature (in particular material related to mass destruction, war, terrorism, and crimes against humanity) into the curriculum.

It is important to remember that many of the topics discussed below are ones that we already address in our courses when appropriate. The events of recent months can provide a framework for these discussions/lectures and their increased saliency may facilitate student╣s learning of this material.


It is clear that our students and others that we may come in contact with on a professional level are looking for information that addresses emotional concerns in response to the events of the past few months. Thus, classroom discussions related to trauma, PTSD, emotional reactions to personal attack and displacement of aggression particularly against the "other", grief, challenge to just-world-thinking, and other similar topics may be particularly useful to our students. For some of our students, this may be their first intimate experience with what is perceived as a physical attack on their well-being and safety. As such, hopefully everyone's university's counseling services will be equipped to meet the needs of students who are experiencing difficulty coping with these events.

Topics that can certainly be discussed in relation to these events include stereotyping, in-group/out-group behaviors, moral exclusion, displacement of aggression, nationalism, dehumanization, etc. I heard former NY Mayor Ed Koch speaking and suggesting that we level entire cities in a number of countries which have been known to harbor terrorists. All of the above can be discussed in relation to this idea. Also, we can draw on our previous experiences in the U.S. when Pearl Harbor was attacked and the subsequent treatment of Japanese American residents and citizens simply on the basis of their national/ethnic origin to frame these discussions. Koch's statement can also lead to discussion of Baumeister's magnitude gap between perpetrator and victim and how this gap can lead to escalation of atrocities.

Also, there are many topics related specifically to peace psychology which can be raised in class. For example, the psychosocial roots of terrorism, mass violence, and war, the treatment of survivors of mass violence, etc.

Suggested Resources:

Christie, D. J., Wagner, R. V., & Winter, D. D. (Eds.). (2001). Peace, conflict, and violence: Peace psychology for the 21st century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

This edited text includes sections on both direct violence and structural violence as well as chapters dealing with the trauma associated with war and conflict.

Chirot, D., & Seligman, M. E. (Eds.). (2001). Ethnopolitical warfare: Causes, consequences, and possible solutions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

New text published by APA with chapters ethnicity and nationalism as well as the group violence, psychosocial assistance, social psychology and intergroup conflict, and the psychology of group identification.

Fisher, R., Schneider, A. K., Borgwardt, E., & Ganson, B. (1997). Coping with international conflict: A systematic approach to influence in international negotiation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Has a particularly good chapter related to the use of threats and retaliation in response to events such as today. Focuses on why these are often counter-productive.

Langholtz, H. J. (Ed.). (1998). The psychology of peacekeeping. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Includes some chapters which may be applicable to today's events such as the psychosocial concerns of rescue/humanitarian workers. Also includes some information about the psychological consequence of landmines. While at first this may seem irrelevant, many of our students safety has been challenged as they may feel they are no longer safe and attack can occur at any time. Also, there is a good chapter on psychosocial numbing which may be related to why some of your students may seem not to care.

Kressel, N. (1996). Mass hate: The global rise of genocide and terror. New York: Plenum Press.

One of the few texts to address the psychosocial roots of genocide and mass violence. Underlying the entire text is the question, "Why mass hate?" With this question in mind, Kressel examines four instances of mass violence in depth: ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, violence associated with Muslim extremists in New York, the Rwandan genocide, and the Holocaust. The book includes two significant chapters that synthesize and critique the research on situational and personality factors as related to actions of mass violence and terror.

Ajdukoviš, D. (Ed.). (1997). Trauma recovery training: Lessons learned. Zagreb, Croatia: Society for Psychological Assistance.

Based on a 1997 conference on trauma recovery training. Provides information relevant to the treatment of children and adults in war regions. Provide valuable information concerning training and the mental health and support of care providers.

Jones, L. (1998). The question of political neutrality when doing psychosocial work with survivors of political violence. International Review of Psychiatry, 10, 239- 247.

While neutrality is an assumed component of clinical practice, this article argues that such neutrality may be counterproductive and impossible in some situations. Thoughtful exploration of political neutrality versus subjectivity concerns in psychosocial work with survivors of political violence. Also discussed are the ramifications of such neutrality and subjectivity.

Kleber, R. J., Figley, C. R., & Gersons, B. P. R. (Eds.). (1995). Beyond trauma: Cultural and societal dynamics. New York: Plenum Press.

This collection of essays examines all aspects of working with survivors of trauma associated with mass violence, war, political oppression, and disaster. Challenges traditional notions of posttraumatic stress disorder, argues for the inclusion of social and cultural values in work with survivors, and examines the moral and ethical issues associated with treatment of survivors. Based on the 1992 World Conference of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies on Trauma and Tragedy: The Origins, Management, and Prevention of Traumatic Stress in Today's World, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Ursano, R. J., McCaughey, B. G., & Fullerton, C. S. (Eds.). (1994). Individual and community responses to trauma and disaster: The structure of human chaos. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Zinner, E. S., & Williams, M. B. (Eds.). (1999). When a community weeps: Case studies in group survivorship. Philadelphia, PA, US: Brunner/Mazel.

Hoffman, B. (1999). Inside Terrorism New York: Columbia University Press.

Maniscalco, P. M., & Christen, H. T. (2001). Understanding Terrorism and Managing the Consequences. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Reich, W., & Laqueur, W. (Eds.). (1998) Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

Whitaker, D. J. (2001). The Terrorism Reader. New York: Routledge.

Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology Documents

Finally, there are two free curriculum resources available on the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology which have annotated bibliographies, lecture suggestions, and some additional information which may be of use to you in your classes at this time. Both include information related to terrorism particularly the psychosocial roots of terrorism and survivor concerns. The documents are:

Incorporating Genocide, Ethnopolitical Conflict, and Human Rights Issues Into the Psychology Curriculum: Informational Resources (2000), Linda M. Woolf, Webster University.

This 27-page document contains two annotated bibliographies of materials on genocide, ethnopolitical conflict, and human rights issues written from a psychosocial perspective. The first bibliography includes major journal articles, book chapters, books, and Internet resources on these issues organized by topic. The second bibliography is comprised of reference materials for background information and further study. In addition, there is an annotated list of relevant journals.

Incorporating Genocide, Ethnopolitical Conflict, and Human Rights Issues Into the Psychology Curriculum: Instructional Resources (2000), Linda M. Woolf, Webster University.

This 32-page document consists of resource materials for developing whole courses and lectures on genocide, ethnopolitical conflict, and human rights issues. For incorporating specific topics into existing courses, lecture suggestions and selected references are given. For developing and revising whole courses, sample syllabi are provided. In addition, lists of relevant videotapes, Web sites, Internet discussion lists, and professional organizations are included.

Both can be found for free download at: http://www.lemoyne.edu/OTRP/teachingresources.html#diversity

Web Sites:

The following two web sites are from APA:

Handling Anxiety in the Face of the Anthrax Scare - http://helping.apa.org/daily/anthrax.html

Help with trauma - http://www.apa.org/psychnet/coverage.html

From the National Center for PTSD - Disaster Mental Health: Dealing with the Aftereffects of Terrorism - http://www.ncptsd.org/terrorism/index.html

From U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Department Of Social Work Disaster Mental Health Services - A Guidebook for Clinicians and Administrators - http://www.wramc.amedd.army.mil/departments/socialwork/provider/DMHS.htm

Link page - http://www.trauma-pages.com/pg5.htm

Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Disasters and Other Traumatic Events - Center for Psychological Services, Wright State University - http://www.wright.edu/sopp/cps/TraumaticStress.html

For individuals dealing with children and their responses to this tragedy, Judith A. Myers-Walls has put together a web site with information developed for this event. Go to http://www.ces.purdue.edu

and click on Terrorism and Children. National Association of School Psychology: Coping with National Tragedy http://www.nasponline.org/NEAT/crisis_0911.html

Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution: Helping Children cope with Terrorism and other Trauma - http://www.state.oh.us/cdr/schools/trauma.htm

A Guide for Parents: Ten Tips for Talking with Children About Terrorism - http://www.state.oh.us/cdr/schools/trauma/tentips.htm