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Disaster Psychology

  1. Gilbert Reyes

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0276

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Reyes, G. 2010. Disaster Psychology. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Disasters severely disrupt or destroy environments on which people depend for their survival, and they may thus have extensive social and psychological consequences. The origin of a disaster may lie in natural phenomena such as heat, wind, precipitation, fire, tides, and seismic activity (e.g., droughts, famines, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, tsunamis, and earthquakes). Disasters may also be brought about by unusually rapid changes in the prevalence and distribution of life forms, leading to infestations of destructive species and epidemics of infectious disease. Human activities may also cause massive destruction, whether inadvertently or by intent. Technological failures are an increasingly worrisome cause of death and destruction, most notably perhaps in the category of failures of transportation conveyances (e.g., aircraft, ships, trains), but failures of architectural structures can also be massively destructive (e.g., dams, levies, pipelines, and large buildings). Manufacturing that involves explosive or toxic substances also requires technological safeguards that may fail (e.g., chemical plants, oil refineries, and nuclear power plants), and major failures can lead to long-term environmental damage and the injury or death of workers or others living nearby.