June 22, 2014


‘As the coward sees danger where there is, practically speaking, none, the reckless man does not see it where it actually exists. . . The really brave man does not overlook the danger. He does not let his mind dwell upon it; but if it exists he knows just what it is.’  (Everett 1891, pp.41-2)

Extreme environments can be terrifying. People who venture into dangerous places face the prospect of unpleasant and potentially debilitating fear.  In Chapter 2 of Extreme, we examine research on what it is like to be in the grip of fear, and how those who survive and thrive in extreme environments control their fear.

People who thrive at the limits often display remarkable courage. In this chapter we also examine research on the qualities of bravery and heroism, and look at the difference between bravery and recklessness.


We enjoyed and learned a lot from the following books that deal with the related topics of fear, heroism, and bravery:

  • Allison, S. T. & Goethals, G. R. (2010). Heroes: What they do and why we need them. New York: Oxford University Press (Amazon UK)
  • Lazarus, R. S. & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer (Amazon UK)
  • Pury. C. L. & Lopez, S.J. (Eds). The psychology of courage: Modern research on an ancient virtue. Washington: American Psychological Association (Amazon UK)
  • Rachman, S.J. (1990). Fear and courage. (2nd Edn). New York: WH Freeman & Co (Amazon UK)
  • Wise, J. (2009). Extreme fear. Palgrave Macmillan. (Amazon UK)

All accounts of adventures in extreme environments touch on fear, bravery, and heroism in one way or another. We made reference to these ones in this chapter:

  • Cherry-Garrard, A. (2010). The worst journey in the world. London: Vintage. (Original published 1922.) (Amazon UK)
  • Coffey, M. (2004). Where the mountain casts its shadow: The personal costs of climbing. London: Random House. (Amazon UK)
  • Davis, W. (2012). Into the silence: The Great War, Mallory and the conquest of Everest. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. (Amazon UK)
  • Hall, B. (2012). Team Spirit: Life and leadership on one of the world’s toughest yacht races. London: Bloomsbury Publishing plc (Amazon UK)
  • Huntford, R. (1999). Scott and Amundsen: Their race to the South Pole (updated edition). London: Abacus. (Amazon UK)
  • Fiennes, R. (2013). Cold: Extreme adventures at the lowest temperatures on Earth. London: Simon & Schuster. (Amazon UK)
  • Fleming, F. (2000). Ninety degrees North: The quest for the North Pole. London: Granta. (Amazon UK)
  • McMurray, K. F. (2001). Deep descent: Adventure and death diving the Andrea Doria. New York: Touchstone. (Amazon UK)
  • Powter, G. (2006). Strange and dangerous dreams. Seattle, WA: The Mountaineers Books. (Amazon UK)
  • Simpson, J. (1997). Touching the void. London: Vintage (Amazon UK)
  • Spufford, F. (2003) I may be some time. London: Faber & Faber (Amazon UK, new edition 2010)
  • Van Schaik, V. (2008). Fatally flawed. The quest to be deepest. South Africa: Liquid Edge Publishing. (Amazon UK)

We drew on research in the following scholarly books and articles:

  • Arnett, J. (1992). Reckless behavior in adolescence: A developmental perspective. Developmental Review, 12, 339-373.
  • Arnett, J. (1995). The young and the reckless: Adolescent reckless behavior. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 67-71
  • Askew, C. & Field, A. P. (2008). The vicarious learning pathway to fear 40 years on. Clinical Psychology Review, 28:1249–1265.
  • Barlow, M., Woodman, T. & Hardy, L. (2013). Great expectations: Different high-risk activities satisfy different motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 458.
  • Brymer, E. & Oades L.G. (2009). Extreme sports: A positive transformation in courage and humility. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 49, 114-126.
  • Castanier, C., Le Scanff, C. & Woodman, T. (2011). Mountaineering as affect regulation: the moderating role of self-regulation strategies. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 24, 75-89
  • Colasanti, A. et al. (2008). Carbon dioxide-induced emotion and respiratory symptoms in healthy volunteers. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33, 3103-3110.
  • Davis, M. et al. (2010). Phasic vs sustained fear in rats and humans: role of the extended amygdala in fear vs anxiety. Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, 35, 105-135.
  • Delle Fave, A., Bassi, M. & Massimini, F. (2003). Quality of experience and risk perception in high-altitude rock climbing. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 82-98.
  • Dias, C., Cruz, J. F. & Fonseca, A. M. (2012). The relationship between multidimensional competitive anxiety, cognitive threat appraisal, and coping strategies: a multi-sport study. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10, 52-65.
  • Duangpatra, K. N. K., Bradley, G. L. & Glendon, A. I. (2009). Variables affecting emerging adults’ self-reported risk and reckless behaviors. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 298-309.
  • Franco, Z. E., Blau, K. & Zimbardo, P. G. (2011). Heroism: A conceptual analysis and differentiation between heroic action and altruism. Review of General Psychology, 15, 99-113.
  • Gecas, V. (1989). The social psychology of self-efficacy. Annual Review of Sociology, 15, 291-316.
  • Gooderham, P. (2009). The distinction between gross negligence and recklessness in English criminal law. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine102, 358.
  •   Holahan, C. J. et al. (2005). Stress generation, avoidance coping, and depressive symptoms: A 10-year model. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 658-666.
  • Jones, E., et al. (2004). Public panic and morale: A reassessment of civilian reactions during the Blitz and World War 2. Journal of Social History17, 463-479.
  • Joseph, S. ­­(2011). What doesn’t kill us: The new psychology of posttraumatic growth. New York: Basic Books.
  • Korchin, S. J. & Ruff, G. E. (1964). Personality characteristics of the Mercury astronauts. In G.H. Grosser et al. (Eds.). The threat of impending disaster (pp. 203-204). Cambridge: MIT Press
  • Lester, P. B. et al. (2010). Developing courage in followers: Theoretical and applied perspectives. In C. L. Pury. & S.J.Lopez (Eds).  The psychology of courage (pp. 187-207). Washington: American Psychological Association.
  • McGurk, D. & Castron, C.A. (2010). Courage in combat. In C.L.S. Pury & S.J. Lopez (Eds.) The Psychology of courage (pp. 167-185). Washington: American Psychological Association
  • Monasterio, E. (2006). Adventure sports in New Zealand: Dangerous and costly recklessness or valuable health-promoting activity? Be careful to judge. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 119, 5-7.
  • Morgan, W.P. (1995) Anxiety and panic in recreational SCUBA divers. Sports Medicine, 20, 398-421
  • Pury, C. L., Lopez, S. J. & Key-Roberts, M. (2010). The future of courage research. In C. L. Pury. & S.J.Lopez (Eds). The psychology of courage: Modern research on an ancient virtue (pp. 229-235). Washington: American Psychological Association
  • Rachman, S. (1994). The over-prediction of fear: A review. Behaviour Research and Therapy32, 683-690.
  • Rapp, G. C. (2008). The wreckage of recklessness. Washington University Law Review86, 111-80.
  • Rassovsky, Y. & Kushner, M. G. (2003). Carbon dioxide in the study of panic disorder: issues of definition, methodology, and outcome. Anxiety Disorders17, 1-32.
  • Ruff, G. & Korchin, S. (1964). Psychological responses of the Mercury astronauts to stress. In G.H. Grosser et al. (Eds.). The threat of impending disaster (pp. 208-220). Cambridge: MIT Press
  • Teese, R. & Bradley, G. (2008). Predicting recklessness in emerging adults: A test of a psychosocial model. The Journal of Social Psychology148, 105-126.
  • Vickers, K. et al. (2012). The 35% carbon dioxide test in stress and panic research: Overview of effects and integration of findings. Clinical Psychology Review32, 153-164.
  • Wetherell, M. A. et al. (2006). The four-dimensional stress test: Psychological, sympathetic-adrenal-medullary, parasympathetic and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses following inhalation of 35% CO2. Psychoneuroendocrinology31, 736-747.

Blog posts in the category Bravery

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