June 9, 2013

Other people

Other people can be a significant source of stress in extreme environments. In Extreme we wrote about the sources of conflict, which often include cultural and national differences (and miscommunication), exacerbated by lack of privacy. We also cover intimate relationships in extremes, as well as the relationships that adventurers have with the ‘people left behind’ – their loved ones who must wait (often anxiously) for him or her to return.

Many psychologists have written about and researched the nature and causes of interpersonal conflict. Some particularly good sources are:

  • Kanas, N. & Manzey, D. (2008). Space Psychology and Psychiatry (2nd Edn). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
  • Stuster J. (1996). Bold endeavors: Lessons from space and polar exploration. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press
  • Suedfeld, P. & Steel, G. D. (2000). The environmental psychology of capsule habitats. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 227-53.

We also drew on the following sources when discussing small group psychology and sources of conflict:

  • Finney, B. (1991) Scientists and seamen. In A.A. Harrison, Y.A. Clearwater & C.P. McKay (Eds). From Antarctica to Outer Space (pp. 89-102). New York: Springer-Verlag.
  • Frost, O.W. (1995). Vitus Bering and Georg Steller: Their Tragic Conflict during the American Expedition. Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 86, 3-16.
  • Inoue, N., Ichiyo M. & Ohshima, H. (2004). Group interactions in SFINCSS-99: lessons for improving behavioral support programs. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 75, C28-C35.
  • Kanas, N. (1998). Psychosocial issues affecting crews during long-duration international space missions. Acta Astronautica, 42, 339-361.
  • McCormick, I. A., et al. (1985). A psychometric study of stress and coping during the International Biomedical Expedition to the Antarctic (IBEA). Journal of Human stress, 11, 150-156.
  • Palinkas, L. A. (1991). Effects of physical and social environments on the health and well-being of Antarctic winter-over personnel. Environment and Behavior, 23, 782-799.
  • Palmai, G. (1963). Psychological observations on an isolated group in Antarctica. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 109, 364-370.
  • Ritsher, J. B. (2005). Cultural Factors and the International Space Station. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 76, 135–144.
  • Rivolier, J. et al. (1988). Man in the Antarctic: The scientific work of the International Biomedical Expedition to the Antarctic (IBEA). New York: Taylor & Francis.
  • Rivolier, J., Cazes, G. & McCormick, I. (1991). The International Biomedical Expedition to the Antarctic: Psychological evaluations of the field party. In: A.A. Harrison, Y.A. Clearwater, and C.P. McKay (Eds). From Antarctica to Outer Space (pp. 283-290). New York: Springer-Verlag.
  • Sandal, G. M. (2004). Culture and tension during an international space station simulation: Results from SFINCSS’99. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 75, C44-C51.
  • Suedfeld, P., Wilk, K.E. & Cassel, L. (2011). Flying with strangers: Postmission reflections of multinational space crews. In D.A. Vakoch (Ed.). Psychology of space exploration in historical perspective (pp. 143–175). Washington: NASA [pdf link]
  • Taylor, A.J.W. (1991). The research program of the International Biomedical Expedition to the Antarctic (IBEA) and its implications for research in outer space. In: A.A. Harrison, Y.A. Clearwater & C.P. McKay (Eds.) From Antarctica to Outer Space (pp. 43-56). New York: Springer-Verlag

One outcome of conflict can be ostracism. We drew heavily on the work of preeminent ostracism researcher Kip Williams and his colleagues. They have done some fascinating experiments showing how easy it can be for people to feel ostracised (my favourite is Gonsalkorale & Williams, 2007). They, and other researchers, have also shown what a corrosive impact ostracism can have on physical and mental well-being.

  • Baumeister R. F. et al. (2006). Social exclusion impairs self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 589–604
  • Baumeister R. F., Twenge J. M. & Nuss, C. K. (2002). Effects of social exclusion on cognitive processes: anticipated aloneness reduces intelligent thought. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 817–27
  • Downey, G. et al. (1998). The self-fulfilling prophecy in close relationships: rejection sensitivity and rejection by romantic partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 545-60.
  • Eisenberger, N.I., Lieberman, M.D. & Williams,K.D. (2003). Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion. Science, 302, 290–292.
  • Gonsalkorale, K. & Williams, K.D. (2007). The KKK won’t let me play: Ostracism even by a despised outgroup hurts. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37, 1176–1185.
  • Gruter M. & Masters R.D. (1986). Ostracism: A social and biological phenomenon. Ethology and Sociobiology, 7,149–395.
  • Nezlek, J. B. et al. (2012). Ostracism in everyday life. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 16, 91–104.
  • Oaten, M. R. et al. (2008). The effects of ostracism on self-regulation in the socially anxious. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 471–504.
  • Smith, A. & Williams, K. D. (2004). RU There? Ostracism by Cell Phone Text Messages. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 8, 291.
  • Twenge J.M. et al. (2001). If you can’t join them, beat them: effects of social exclusion on aggressive behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1058–69.
  • Williams, K. D. & Nida, S. A. (2011). Ostracism: Consequences and Coping. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 71–75.
  • Williams, K. D. & Sommer, K. L. (1997). Social ostracism by coworkers: Does rejection lead to loafing or compensation? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 693-706.
  • Williams, K. D. (2007). Ostracism. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 425-452.
  • Williams, K. D., Cheung, C. K. & Choi, W. (2000). Cyberostracism: effects of being ignored over the Internet. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 748-762.

As well as personality clashes (see chapter 8 on teamwork for more on this), a principal source of interpersonal conflict is lack of privacy. We drew on Altman’s pioneering work from the 1970s and looked at more recent studies of individual and cultural factors that affect our need for privacy, as well as considering how designers of capsule environments try to take account of the need for privacy.

  • Altman, I. (1975). The environment and social behavior. Monterey: Brooks/Cole
  • Altman, I. (1976). Privacy: A conceptual analysis. Environment & Behavior, 8, 7–29
  • Evans, G. W., Lepore, S. J. & Allen, K. M. (2000). Cross-cultural differences in tolerance for crowding: fact or fiction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 204.
  • Leino-Kilpi, H. et al. (2001). Privacy: A review of the literature. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 38, 663-671.
  • Yan, X. W. & England, M. E. (2001). Design evaluation of an Arctic research station from a user perspective. Environment and Behavior, 33, 449-470.

On the people left behind, I loved Maria Coffey’s thoughtful and poignant exploration of the costs of climbing, Where the mountain casts its shadow. Robert Macfarlane’s view in Mountains of the mind was that those who climb must be profoundly selfish. We also touched on the story of Alison Hargreaves (the subject of Rose and Douglas’ Regions of the heart). Hargreaves was an outstanding British climber who came in for a great deal of criticism after she died on K2 from commentators who thought that as a mother she should not have risked her life (in Extreme we point out how badly those commentators misunderstood Hargreaves’ situation).

  • Coffey, M. (2004). Where the mountain casts its shadow: The personal costs of climbing. London: Random House.
  • Macfarlane, R. (2003). Mountains of the mind. London: Granta Books.
  • Rose, D. & Douglas, E. (2000). Regions of the heart. London, Penguin.
  • Wu, G. J. (2013). The dark side of adventure: exploring the stress-coping strategies of mountaineers’ significant others regarding high altitude mountaineering expeditions. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 8, 449-465.

When discussing couples and families in extremes we highlighted the experiences of Jenny Darlington, the first woman to become pregnant on Antarctica, Ranulph and his explorer first wife Ginny Fiennes, and Mick Conefrey’s delightful book How to climb Mont Blanc in a skirt provided many examples of couples in extremes. We went into some detail about the Sverdrup 2000 expedition, which was made up of three couples and a two year old child, and which was studied by psychologist Gloria Leon during their overwinter in the Arctic. This is a fascinating story and one on which I hope to do more work in the future.

  • Conefrey, M. (2011). How to climb Mont Blanc in a skirt. London: OneWorld Publications.
  • Darlington, J. (1957). My Antarctic honeymoon. London: Frederick Muller.
  • Fiennes, R. (2007). Mad, bad and dangerous to know. London: Hodder & Stoughton
  • Landreth, G. (2003). In Sverdrup’s wake. Ocean Navigator January/February.
  • Leon, G. R, et al. (2002). A 1-year, three-couple expedition as a crew analog for a Mars mission. Environment and Behavior 34, 672–700.
  • Leon, G.R. & Sandal, G.M. (2003). Women and couples in isolated extreme environments. Acta Astronautica, 53, 259–267.

We didn’t think we could discuss close relationships in extreme environments without discussing sex. It’s a topic that most researchers skirt around or ignore, but there are a few studies in which it is addressed rather more, er, explicitly. Journalistic accounts are also – perhaps surprisingly – somewhat rare. Brad Wetzler’s account of sex on Everest is particularly illuminating, and we drew on James Tabor’s book on deep caving (Blind descent) when discussing sex among cavers (the book is fabulous, by the way, for many, many other reasons). Other accounts highlight some of the dangers for women from sexual assault and harassment in extremes.

  • Bennet, G. (1973). Medical and psychological problems in the 1972 singlehanded transatlantic yacht race. The Lancet, 302, 747–754.
  • Burgess, E. O. et al. (2001). Surfing for sex: Studying involuntary celibacy using the internet. Sexuality & Culture, 5, 5-30.
  • Burns, R. (2001). Just tell them I survived! Women in Antarctica. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.
  • Cravalho, M. A. (1996). Toast on ice: The ethnopsychology of the winter?over experience in Antarctica. Ethos, 24, 628-656.
  • Donnelly, D. et al. (2001). Involuntary celibacy: A life course analysis. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 159-169.
  • Dutton, D. G. & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 510-517.
  • Mishra, V. (2006). Stress, anxiety and loneliness among 20th Indian expeditioners at Antarctica during summer. Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences, Technical Publication No. 18, 233-241.
  • Oberg, J.E. & Oberg, A.R. (1986). Pioneering space. New York, NY: McGraw Hill
  • Roach, M. (2010). Packing for mars. The curious science of life in space. Oxford: Oneworld.
  • Tabor, J.M. (2010). Blind descent: The quest to discover the deepest place on earth. Random House Publishing Group
  • Wetzler, B. (2001). Base Camp confidential: An oral history of Everest’s endearingly dysfunctional village. Outside Magazine, April 2001.

Other stories in this chapter were drawn from:

  • Fleming, F. (2000). Ninety degrees North: The quest for the North Pole. London: Granta.
  • Franklin, J. (2011). The 33: The ultimate account of the Chilean miners’ dramatic rescue. London: Transworld Publishers
  • Griffiths, T. (2007). Slicing the silence: Voyaging to Antarctica. Sydney, NSW, Australia: University of New South Wales Press

You can buy all the books we mention here on the Extreme Bookshelf (we are part of the Amazon Affiliates programme, meaning that we receive a small commission if you purchase through this store. This commission goes towards the hosting fees for this website).

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