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Judgments Under Stress; The Essential Brunswik: Beginnings, Explications, Applications

Kenneth Hammond
Boulder, CO

Although I have not carried out any empirical research recently, I have been attempting to develop Brunswikian theory. The results of my efforts became visible on 5 November 1999 when Oxford University Press published my Judgments Under Stress. In this book I develop a theory of stress based on the concept of constancy. It is the disruption of constancy that defines stress. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first noncircular, objective definition of psychological stress to appear since Irving Janis introduced this topic in 1958.

Part I reviews current hypotheses from neuroscience about the interaction of emotion and cognition, presents the major J/DM theories, and indicates the implications of each for the analysis of judgment under stress.

Part II presents the Brunswikian theory of constancy, indicates two major types of its disruption, and puts forward hypotheses concerning their effects derived from the cognitive continuum theory of cognition. Examples are drawn from documented events from commercial aviation, sea warfare, and fighting forest fires. A final chapter addresses the problem of moral judgments under stress. Using examples from some of the most stressful events that any human could encounter-trying to fly an uncontrollable airliner, commanding a ship that just hit a mine-psychology Professor Emeritus Kenneth Hammond of the University of Colorado at Boulder has drawn some conclusions about how to make good judgments under the most difficult circumstances. In Judgments Under Stress, Hammond examines the entire field to date and presents some new findings.

According to Hammond, it's a field that is much more difficult to study than it first appears, starting with the definition of the word stress. A leading expert on human decision making, Hammond did much of his research for this academic book by analyzing the words and actions of people who made good judgments under extremely stressful conditions. "You really can't do stress research in the laboratory," Hammond said, "because it's hard to create conditions that are stressful enough." He presents a theoretical framework that describes how people behaved during events like the Cuban missile crisis, being caught in a forest fire, or piloting the airliner that lost part of its fuselage over Hawaii. One of his recommendations is that if what you are doing to deal with the situation is not working, you should consider moving from an analytical response to an intuitive response, or vice versa.

"When the pilots of United 232 were able to land a plane in Iowa City in 1989 despite complete hydraulic failure, they did it not by analysis," Hammond said, "but by intuition. They didn't know what to think-literally."

Part III includes an extensive annotated bibliography of the literature of stress from the fields of human factors, judgment and decision making, clinical psychology, and social and personality psychology. It is my hope that this book will open a new field of research for Brunswikian scholars.

The Office of Public Information at the University of Colorado recently issued the following press release: "Analysis of the situation didn't work because no one had ever imagined that such a situation could occur. The crew had to learn how to fly the crippled plane as if they were learning to fly for the first time and by doing so saved scores of lives," Hammond said.

A converse situation occurred in the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana when a fire crew leader resisted his intuition, which urged him to run for the ridgeline when a fast-moving fire flared up a gulch. Instead, he analyzed that he would never make it out of the gulch in time and set fire to an area and laid down in the middle of it, letting the fire go over and around him. Other members of his crew perished, all of whom refused the crew leader's entreaties to follow his example and relied on their intuition to run. "How a person should respond always depends on the particular conditions of the event," Hammond said. Hammond taught psychology at CU-Boulder from 1948 until 1987. In 1996 he authored an award-winning book titled Human Judgment and Social Policy: Irreducible Uncertainty, Inevitable Error, Unavoidable Injustice, which also was published by Oxford University Press. That book illustrated the consequences of uncertainty with numerous examples from medicine, engineering, law, and economics.

In addition to the above, I have cooperated with Tom Stewart in the preparation of the Brunswik volume titled The Essential Brunswik: Beginnings, Explications, Applications (Oxford). Twenty-five authors contributed to this volume. The manuscript has been sent to the publisher; it should appear in late 2000.

Contact K. Hammond

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