Changes in perceptions and attitudes toward self and others in survivors of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Yolan Shaw, David E. Pollio, Carol S. North

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study examined positive and negative post-9/11 perceptions and attitudes toward oneself and others, using categorical and open-text responses to 6 research questions about perceptions of self and others after the disaster. Nearly 3 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on average, a volunteer sample of 379 employees from 8 New York City companies completed interviews about their disaster experience. A total of 5 themes emerged from a qualitative analysis of the verbal responses: compassion and tolerance, perspectives and priorities, relationships, adaptation, and posttraumatic stress. Both categorical and text response changes had slightly more positive than negative material, in both self and others. Few responses suggested posttraumatic stress symptoms. Positive changes identified may reflect underrecognized resilience potential not readily appreciated in acute disaster settings when the immediate focus is on injury, loss, and emotional pain. These findings also suggest that survivors of even the most severe disasters can identify positive aspects of their disaster experience and are willing to discuss this positive material. Efforts to foster disaster survivors’ abilities to recognize positive aspects of their disaster experience might facilitate their emotional recovery, boost their resilience, and promote healing. Numerous negative perceptions and attitudes expressed by these 9/11 survivors seem resonant with the polarized nature and increased intolerance reflected in current national crises in the form of a major pandemic and widespread social unrest over racism. Examination of positive and negative perceptions and attitudes may provide material for contemplation of disaster experience as part of cognitive processing and addressing behaviors and emotions in psychotherapy. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2020


  • 9/11 attacks
  • attitudes
  • disaster
  • perceptions
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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