Cognitive paralysis in an emergency: The role of the supervisory attentional system

  • Leach J
  • 27

    Readers

    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 22

    Citations

    Citations of this article.

Abstract

Many witnesses attest that victims of a disaster often perish because they 'freeze' in the face of danger. It has been proposed that this cognitive paralysis occurs due to temporal and cognitive constraints on survival response times while leaving open the question of which cognitive component is implicated in this behavior. This paper proposes, firstly, that the temporal constraints which occur during an emergency inhibit the functioning of the supervisory attentional system (SAS), which leads to the victim showing: (1) an appropriate response, if trained; (2) stereotypical or otherwise irrational behavior, if untrained; or (3) cognitive paralysis. Secondly, that the main role of the SAS is to operate as a temporal buffer, enabling a survival response to be prepared prior to facing a life-threatening event and not as a real-time immediate responder. It is argued that the initial cognitive paralysis differs at the cognitive and neurological levels from the more prolonged hypoactive behavior commonly seen in victims rescued from disasters and which is considered to be a form of disassociative reaction.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cognitive paralysis
  • Supervisory attentional system
  • Survival psychology

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document

  • ISBN: 0095-6562
  • SGR: 12944257295
  • PUI: 40175734
  • PMID: 15742830
  • ISSN: 00956562
  • SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-12944257295

Authors

  • John Leach

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free