Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
In the wake of tragedies such as the Sandy Hook school shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing and the devastating explosion in the Texas town of West, people are often left asking, "Why did this happen?"
According to new research from The University of Texas at Austin, the best way to make sense of tragedy is to turn away from detailed reports in the news and social media and adopt a more simplified understanding of the event.
The study, published online in Social Psychological and Personality Science, shows that in the wake of a negative event, people are more likely to find clarity by considering the larger picture. Such a firm understanding helps to diffuse negative emotions and the feeling of a lack of control, says Jae-Eun Namkoong, marketing graduate student in Red McCombs School of Business and lead author of the study.
"Certainty about what causes tragic events not only helps people feel better, but also gives them a sense of direction for action," Namkoong says. "People launching petitions for government actions, constituents voting for policies, or even consumers boycotting against products that malfunction are all motivated by their certainty of the causes behind negative events."
As part of the study, the researchers presented 196 participants with information about the Sandy Hook shooting and altered their sense of time by framing the incident around different reference points. For example, the shooting appears to be much more recent when compared with the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001. But in comparison with a similar incident that occurred just two weeks prior, the Sandy Hook shooting seems much farther away.
According to the results, the participants who perceived the shooting as farther away in time were more confident in their understanding about why the event happened.
"As time passes, people naturally gain more certainty about events," says Marlone Henderson, assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the study. "If you're trying to give yourself a feeling of meaning, you can distance yourself from the incident with time and space. And this also applies to personal problems, such as troubles at work, a broken appliance, or even a bad breakup."
In another experiment, the researchers presented 202 participants with a list of potential causes of the Sandy Hook shooting that were frequently mentioned in the media and public discourse (e.g., suspect's poor social support, weak security in elementary schools, shooter's personality disorder, loose gun control). They were then asked to assign a percentage value to each cause.
The results: Those who perceived the shooting as a distant memory were likely to attribute the event to one or two possible causes. However, the participants who perceived the incident as much closer in time associated the causes to a multitude of factors.
The results from the study have important implications for mental health professionals, as well as for the media, Henderson says.
"It's in the media's interest to keep coming up with new reasons because these things are novel and exciting," Henderson says. "But reporters could actually help bring people comfort by incorporating a sense of distance in their reports."
Published online before print August 16, 2013, doi: 10.1177/1948550613499240 Social Psychological and Personality Science
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
Visit our Bio-terrorism / Terrorism category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
University of Texas at Austin. "Distance helps people find clarity in the face of trauma." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 26 Aug. 2013. Web.
6 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/265205>
University of Texas at Austin. (2013, August 26). "Distance helps people find clarity in the face of trauma." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/265205.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2013 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.