Topic:  Don’t panic! The Social Identity Model of Collective Resilience – Chris Cocking, University of Brighton

Resources: You can download Chris’ slides.

Session summary: Is panic a useful description of human behaviour during mass emergencies, or should we instead focus on the remarkable resilience that people and communities can show in the face of threat and adversity?

Some approaches to mass trauma have tended to consider resilience in terms of an individual trait and so have focussed on personal and/or developmental aspects of resilience in response to stress and/or trauma. However, the Social Identity Model of Collective Resilience (SIMCR) that has been developed from studies of mass emergencies argues that it is also necessary to consider collective resilience and how it can emerge from the shared common identity that can emerge during such emergencies, which encourages support and co-operation rather than selfish ‘panicked’ behaviour. Moreover, the SIMCR suggests that rather than being an individual trait, resilience can be part of a collective process that develops from a shared sense of fate that encourages the provision and expectation of social support amongst survivors. However, there is little systematic evidence to support the notion that such a shared identity endures once the immediate danger has passed, and so I will detail how I plan to investigate whether the common identity that occurs during emergencies can help shield those affected from stress/trauma from one-off incidents, but also how having a positive sense of social identity may contribute towards collective resilience and general well-being in those who may be regularly exposed to stress and/or trauma through their occupational environments (such as emergency first responders, international development etc).

Biography: Dr Chris Cocking has recently joined the School of Nursing at the University of Brighton from London Metropolitan University, and has research interests in the psychology of crowd behaviour (particularly during mass emergencies such as fires and terrorist attacks) and collective resilience. From 2004-7, he was a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, conducting a 3 year study into crowd behaviour during emergencies. He has worked in the crowd management sector, advising on crowd behaviour at large events in London and the South East. He also advises on emergency planning, and was a regular visiting speaker at the Cabinet Office Emergency Planning College from 2005-9. Other one-off consultations he has provided have been for the London Resilience Team (part of the Government Office for London), and the Greater London Assembly (where he contributed to their report into the 7/7 terrorist bombings). Along with colleagues, he has had his research findings published in various peer-reviewed academic and applied journals, most recently in the British Journal of Social Psychology.  He is also a qualified Psychiatric Nurse with experience of working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.


This session took place on Wednesday 29 February 2012.

The Resilience Forum is for those involved with or interested in Resilient Therapy research!

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