Information processing in the face of threat: A Multilevel Research Perspective

D Morrison, Timothy Skinner, C Lawrence, C MacLeod, Petra Buergelt, Patrick Dunlop, P Clark

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Paper


The lessons drawn from the 2003 Victorian bushfires suggest that community and socialcontext,information and its sources, and anxiety and emotional regulationcrucially influence preparing for and responding to bushfires(McLennan & Elliott, 2010). This presentation discusses a three year research programthat will explore the combined and interactive role of these three factors in decision making.At the community level, individual behaviours in terms of preparing for and responding to an immediate threat are influenced by community characteristics. While large differences in community preparedness and responses are observed, as yet we appear to have no systematic account of how or why these differences exist.To address this gapa project entitled – “Community level influence on individual behaviours with respect to bushfire readiness and decision making in the face of immediate threat.” - aims at systematically identifying what factors and processes distinguish communities which are more prepared from those which areless prepared. It also endeavours to identify, implement, and assess interventions at the community level that improve preparedness and response.Prior to and during a disaster, individuals seek and/or receive information,process the information,and act. However, decisions made under stress are frequently impulsive, based on imperfect information, and rigid. In many instances fear interferes with the mitigationof danger, resulting in bad decisions. Accordingly, a second project - “Information processing under stress: Community reactions” - seeks to understand the role fear plays when community members process the information they receive in the lead up to, and during, the bushfire season, as well as during bushfire emergencies.It aims toidentify how individuals use information and warnings to guide their actions, what information should or should not be provided, how and when information is best delivered. How the community context moderates the effectiveness of these messages will be informed by findings from the community level project described previously.At the individual level, research in clinical settings has shown how people varysystematically with respect to their typical attentional responses to threat cues. Some people tend to deliberately avoid or ignore threat cues. Other people tend to be especially vigilant for threat cues. Both low and high levels of dispositional anxiety can impair decision-making and actiontaking capabilities. The goal ofthis project - “Managing the threat through the modification of thought” – is to develop an effective self administered cognitive bias modification program that trains adaptive attentional styles for specific stress inducing events such as bushfires.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event5th Annual Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference, 2011 - Gold Coast, Australia
Duration: 18 Jul 201121 Jul 2011


Conference5th Annual Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference, 2011
CityGold Coast
Internet address


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