Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human cognitive performance suffers following natural disasters

Date:
February 11, 2012
Source:
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Summary:
Not surprisingly, victims of a natural disaster can experience stress and anxiety, but a new study indicates that it might also cause them to make more errors - some serious - in their daily lives. Researchers have explored how cognitive performance can decline after earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Not surprisingly, victims of a natural disaster can experience stress and anxiety, but a new study indicates that it might also cause them to make more errors -- some serious- in their daily lives. In their upcoming Human Factors article, "Earthquakes on the Mind: Implications of Disasters for Human Performance," researchers William S. Helton and James Head from the University of Canterbury explore how cognitive performance can decline after earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Related Articles


Past research has indicated that more traffic accidents and accident-related fatalities occur following human-made disasters such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, due to increased cognitive impairment that can lead to higher stress levels and an increase in intrusive thoughts. However, no research has been conducted on the effects of natural disasters on cognitive performance. The authors were unexpectedly presented with a unique opportunity to investigate the impact of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, with participants in a study on human performance they were conducting at the time of the quake.

"We were conducting a [different] study on human performance requiring two sessions," said Helton. "In the midst of the study, between the two sessions, we had a substantial local earthquake, which resulted in the rare opportunity to do a before/after study. We were quick to seize the opportunity."

The researchers measured participants' cognitive control by asking them to either press a button corresponding to numbers presented on a video screen or to withhold a response to a preselected number presented on the same screen. Normally, participant performance would improve during the second session, but the authors found an increase in errors of omission following the earthquake.

Helton and Head also noted distinct differences in pre- and post-earthquake findings depending on self-reported responses to the disaster: If the participants reported being anxious following the quake, their response times sped up and they made more errors of commission, whereas those who reported depression logged slower response times.

"The article provides evidence for a phenomenon many people report experiencing after a major event like an earthquake," said Helton. "People would find themselves zoning out and making more errors than usual after the quake."

Future research is needed to explore this phenomenon further, but the researchers' findings may point to potentially serious complications arising from postdisaster performance in daily life and work tasks. These findings also suggest that police, emergency responders, and others working in the aftermath of the disaster may also experience cognitive disruption, which can interfere with their ability to perform rescue-related tasks.

"Presumably people are under increased cognitive load after a major disaster," Helton continued. "Processing a disaster during tasks is perhaps similar to dual-tasking, like driving and having a cell phone conversation at the same time, and this can have consequences."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. "Human cognitive performance suffers following natural disasters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120211095351.htm>.
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. (2012, February 11). Human cognitive performance suffers following natural disasters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120211095351.htm
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. "Human cognitive performance suffers following natural disasters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120211095351.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Buffalo Residents Digging Out, Helping out

Raw: Buffalo Residents Digging Out, Helping out

AP (Nov. 22, 2014) Hundreds of volunteers joined a 'shovel brigade' in Buffalo, New York on Saturday, as the city was living up to its nickname, "The City of Good Neighbors." Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins