29 November 2003

The role of psychological factors in the management of crisis situations

The role of psychological factors in the management of crisis situations

What personality traits tend to exist in successful crisis managers?

Dr Gary Buck C.Psychol. AFBPsS, University of Westminster, presents a paper exploring this issue.

Research literature suggests a number of psychological factors that affect the management of critical situations. Firstly, the complexity of an individual’s information processing has been linked to successful management of critical situations. To be able to process information in a complex manner, an individual must have the underlying capacity to operate at such high levels. This capacity (referred to as conceptual complexity) can be characterised by personality traits such as open-mindedness and flexible, or perhaps better viewed as the non-authoritarian and non-obsessive personalities. The underlying motives of the individual, (whether they are primarily motivated by a need for achievement, power or affiliation), will affect which goals the individual sees as important and in part how they interpret the stressfulness of the situation. The stressful nature of the situation will also be buffered to a greater or lesser extent by the hardiness of the individual (the extent to which they see the situation as a challenge, feel committed to solving the problem and feel they can control the situation). The level of stress perceived by the individual will then lead them to adopt a pattern of coping behaviours, (unconflicted adherence, unconflicted change, defensive avoidance, hypervigilance and vigilance), in order to deal with the psychological conflict caused by the situation and the stress engendered by it. The quantity, quality and more specifically the complexity of the individual’s information processing (and thus the likelihood for success) will vary with the adoption of one of these patterns.
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