Ongoing Series Addresses Perceptions on Terrorism

One goal of the newly founded Gender Education Series is to enlighten UC Irvine students about the different perspectives between men and women and the many different cultures of the world.
This goal was reaffirmed on May 4 when the Cross-Cultural Center hosted a seminar entitled ‘Gender and Cultural Differences in Response to Terrorism,’ led by Elaine Vaughan, associate professor of psychology and social behavior.
Vaughn has received many government grants to study diseases as well as analyze people’s behavior in response to terrorism.
According to the host at the CCC, Vaughn has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation to study the risk judgments, emotions and reasoning strategies of individuals.
Vaughn also recently secured funding from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention for a national project to determine the perceptions and evaluations of the threat of bioterrorism within an urban community.
Vaughn began the seminar by informing the students that the U.S. government has positions available for them.
‘The Department of Homeland Security has a lot of money available for undergraduates and graduates to support you and possibly do some research on these kinds of topics,’ Vaughn said.
Since 2001, Americans have become generally more aware of the vulnerabilities to terrorism than they had been prior to Sept. 11.
Vaughn went on to explain amorphous strategies of the terrorists and how the attacks are directed at civilian targets to will create the greatest amount of fear.
‘The nature of the terrorist threat is actually changing,’ Vaughn said. ‘If you look at studies that analyze terrorist activities across the world, you will see that individual acts are becoming more deadly. There’s more targeting of civilian populations in what’s called ‘soft targets’; like hotels and restaurants.’
Vaughn went on to explain the role of terrorism by repeating the recommendation of the Department of State for American travelers to avoid certain countries and areas overseas, such as Lebanon, the Central African Republic, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and the Philippines.
The state of California, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, has taken it upon itself to address the growing threat of terrorism by creating a list of the 10 most likely targets in California to be struck by terrorists: the Los Angeles International Airport, the Port of Oakland, the Port of Long Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland, the Port of Los Angeles, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the San Francisco International Airport, the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge and finally, the Port of San Diego.
Terrorism isn’t what it used to be, according to Vaughn; the fear of conventional methods of bombings and shootings are overshadowed by the growing concern of emerging new terrorist techniques.
‘There is also a lot of concern now about emerging terrorism threats,’ Vaughn said. ‘These scenarios are even more disturbing than the scenarios with conventional weapons, and these are called weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical, radiological [and] agricultural weapons.’
According to Vaughn, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Caucasians all react differently to similar threats and will respond differently when the government calls upon them in a crisis.
Vaughn explained that after Sept. 11 throughout the country, women were more likely to demonstrate acute stress disorders and were also found to be more likely of having higher risk perceptions of terrorism than their male counterparts.
Men were found to experience more anger towards a terrorist threat than females. Men also perceive more control over terrorist circumstances and are more optimistic about the state’s role in addressing the problem.
When informed of this study, students tended to disagree.
‘Well I don’t know how women think, but I don’t get angry when I hear terrorist threats, especially because I haven’t heard any threats,’ said third-year criminology major Justin Kessler. ‘But if I did [hear threats], I guess I would be more disappointed than angry.’
Women were found less likely than men to purchase a gun for protection after Sept. 11 than men. Women were also found to restrict their lifestyle, such as avoiding airplane travel, due to the threat of terrorism.
Hispanics in Manhattan were found to be twice as likely as other ethnicities to experience post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Both Hispanics and African-Americans were found to report higher risk perceptions of terrorism than whites.
It was also found that African-Americans were more likely than whites to turn to religion and spirituality; women also adopt this strategy more than men do.
African-Americans and Asian-Americans were both found to stock up on supplies greater than both their Hispanic and white counterparts.
These differences in gender and cultural perceptions were observed in Western Europe, Israel, the United States, and China.
Terrorism is constantly changing, but our responses as individuals are relatively stable. Some will become reclusive and stock up on supplies while others will become belligerent and stock up on ammunition, beside other reactions.