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Stress and Crisis Hostage Negotiation

by Jeff Thompson
September 2016

Crisis Negotiator Blog by Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson
Stress is something synonymous with the world of crisis and hostage negotiation. Stress is expected but when unchecked and unaccounted for, it can lead to spontaneous actions, foolish moves, inaccurate assumptions being made, and potentially violence.

As with much of what I post here, I try to incorporate the "science" with the "practical" work being done by negotiators. The following ten articles are all grounded in research and can be helpful from a understanding the physiology of stress, how to manage stress, and how it impacts decision-making.

Enjoy!

A Guide To Managing Stress in Crisis Response Professions
Behavioral, physical, and emotional/psychological reactions to stress; cycle (p.1-2)
 

How Anxiety Affects Your Decision-Making Skills
New research points to the connection between bad choices and anxious personalities.


Decision-Making Under Stress: The Brain Remembers Rewards, Forgets Punishments
It's counterintuitive, but under stress we tend to focus more on the rewards than on the risks of any decision.
A new review shows that acute stress affects the way the brain considers the pros and cons, causing it to focus on pleasure and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision.

Understanding the stress response
Chronic activation of this survival mechanism impairs health.
All of these changes happen so quickly that people aren't aware of them. In fact, the wiring is so efficient that the amygdala and hypothalamus start this cascade even before the brain's visual centers have had a chance to fully process what is happening.


Just made a bad decision? Perhaps anxiety is to blame
Scientists have discovered a mechanism for how anxiety may disrupt decision making. They report that anxiety disengages a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is critical for flexible decision making.
 
Impact of Fear and Anxiety

Once the fear pathways are ramped up, the brain short-circuits more rational processing paths and reacts immediately to signals from the amygdala. When in this overactive state, the brain perceives events as negative and remembers them that way.
...Moreover, fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately.

 

How You Deal With Your Emotions Can Influence Your Anxiety


Stress And The Brain: High Cortisol Levels Can Damage Brain Structure, Cognitive Function

 
What is happening to the body during stress
 
New police study on stress and what happens to the body

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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