Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Public support can influence soldiers' mental health, bug killing study suggests

Date:
April 5, 2013
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Can events supporting troops reduce the risk of soldiers experiencing combat-related stress disorders? A new study suggests so.

David Webber used a psychological experiment involving woodlice as part of his study showing that the level of public support for a war could influence the level of mental distress soldiers feel when they arrive home.
Credit: Richard Siemens

Can events like Red Fridays, Tickets for Troops and the yellow ribbon campaign reduce the chances of Canadian soldiers experiencing combat-related stress disorders? The authors of a new study from the University of Alberta think so.

David Webber, a PhD student in the U of A's Department of Psychology, and his supervisor Jeff Schimel recently published a paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, positing that the level of public support for a war could influence the level of mental distress combatants feel when they arrive home, potentially leading to a heightened risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Webber says the results send a message that policy-makers should choose their battles wisely.

Extermination and peer acceptance as research paradigm

Webber and colleagues designed two studies in which participants were asked to exterminate a number of woodlice using a modified coffee grinder. In one study, they would have to prep another participant, an actor who feigned either interest or disgust at the notion of the task. In the second study, participants were asked to record in a logbook who had actively participated or who had refused to kill the bugs. In both cases, the participants indicated increased levels of guilt and distress when they felt their participation was socially invalidated.

"We did have some participants who showed some clear distress not only when going through the initial act of killing, but also after finding that somebody else had refused to do it," said Webber. "There were some clear physical signs that people were uncomfortable after they found out it was invalidated by other people."

Vietnam versus the war on terror

Webber's research points to examples of wars or military actions that were perceived to be popular or unpopular with society, notably the American involvement in the Vietnam War compared with the response to the 9-11 attacks. He says that when there is no clear or rational reason for a country to go to war, the resulting protests over military involvement can act as a catalyst in the minds of returning soldiers and veterans over their role in an action their country sees as unjust or even immoral. Though the act of taking another life in combat can be in some ways rationalized as necessary for the good of one's country, when that country's citizens openly manifest their rejection of the war, the soldiers' perception that their actions were out of line with social reality, and thus immoral, may become detrimental to their mental health.

"Soldiers, while they're in the military, may believe that killing is the right thing to do. But maybe when they return home and see the culture and the country is not as supportive as they thought it once was, it makes it more distressing," he says.

Combatants risk more than lives

Webber says leaders need to act wisely and judiciously when deciding to go to war with other countries. Although soldiers accept the inherent risks involved with their careers, there is no training given that will help them face the backlash of public opinion against their role in the government's choice to do battle. Even though citizens may support the soldiers, and may sign petitions and stage demonstrations with the intent of bringing them back home safely, Webber says being caught between duty and public opinion can be a painful experience.

Webber acknowledges that there is not necessarily an ideal prescription for when to go to war, but he says for the sake of the troops' mental health, signing that declaration needs to be done with the utmost thought and care.

"When decisions are made to go to war, they should be based less on fear and insecurity and more in hard realities, such as if the country has been attacked," said Webber. "If the decisions are undertaken with good reason, with legitimate evidence behind them, protests should be less likely and invalidation should be less of a problem."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. The original article was written by Jamie Hanlon. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. Webber, J. Schimel, A. Martens, J. Hayes, E. H. Faucher. Using a Bug-Killing Paradigm to Understand How Social Validation and Invalidation Affect the Distress of Killing. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2013; 39 (4): 470 DOI: 10.1177/0146167213477891

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Public support can influence soldiers' mental health, bug killing study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130405094519.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2013, April 5). Public support can influence soldiers' mental health, bug killing study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130405094519.htm
University of Alberta. "Public support can influence soldiers' mental health, bug killing study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130405094519.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Newsy (Sep. 10, 2014) Researchers found commonly prescribed sleeping and anxiety pills such as Xanax and Valium could lead to an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. 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:
from the past week

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