Final: Determining the Effects of Terrorist Attacks

This topic submitted by Sarah Hayes, Chelsea Nagy, Abby Workman, Libby Carey ( at 2:17 pm on 12/11/01. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Myers

Determining the Effects of Terrorist Attacks on the National Community in Relation to the Global Community

Libby Carey
Abby Workman
Chelsea Nagy
Sarah Hayes


The goal of our project is to determine if the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 psychologically affected Americans differently than people from other countries. In the days after the bombing, there was little else about which people could think. The tragedy filled the our minds, at the same time we were deciding on a project. Our preoccupation with this terrible event led us to our decision to involve it in our project. We are very aware of our initial reactions and the impact the tragedy had on our lives, and we are wondering if our social identification as Americans effects the way in which we were impacted. In order to find this, we must study and compare the reactions of a group of Americans and those of a group of foreigners.
The research may lead to some interesting insight into our nation’s collective personality as it relates to the individual. We have seen ourselves for years as an invincible entity, untouchable by the terrorism, tragedies and evils with which the rest of the world must cope. If the individual’s security and confidence in the vast and sacred sheltering force called “America” is shaken, we may come to view our position within the world as different. This event may’ve increased our sensitivity to our vulnerability as shown through our reactions. Those who have not had this same feeling may not have been effected in the same ways that we were. We hope to discover if the individual’s feelings of security were shaken in regards to the nation or to the world in general.


We believe that the attacks will have a larger affect on Americans and their sense of safety than those who are originally from other countries. We’re hypothesizing that Americans will be more affected than foreigners because of many reasons. We have built America up as invincible because extreme terrorism events, like this one, are not as common in America as in many other countries. Consequently, if a person lives in a country where terrorism is common, they will be less deeply affected by this recent terrorist attack. Also, we identify more with the victims because they are part of the complex psychological group of the “nation” that we’ve formed in our minds. They are our “brothers and sisters” because we are all Americans and therefore we hypothesize that the tragedy will touch Americans more deeply than those from other countries.

The question at the base of our investigation is: “Does one associate himself more with the larger group of ‘humankind’ or with the group of his ‘nation?’” Coming from the standpoint that Americans identify with other Americans more than foreigners, and vise- versa, tragedies of such magnitude as the September 11 terrorist attacks may psychologically affect those who identify themselves as Americans more than those who don’t. But the point could also be argued that the terrorist acts were not only a breach in national security and a destroying of a national security building, they were also an attack on human life which clamed thousands of victims. Foreigners may be just as equally effected as Americans because of their identification as a whole with humankind. To discover this we must find out if Americans were more strongly effected by the attacks and make our inferences from there.
One must first look at the reasons the individual is so strongly connected to his nation. Among them are the nation as a factor of identity through psychological proprietorship and social identity through the nation grouping. From kindergarten on we Americans are taught pride and ownership of the vast and awe-inspiring collective force called “America.” We sing the national anthem and pledge allegiance to the symbol of our grand country, the flag. We assign our nation with such good things as “liberty” and “justice” (of which we know nothing except that we are living them and they are worth dieing for). Because we have been taught that we are part of a greater whole, we list “American” as one of our identifying traits. A study by Rentsch and Heffner in 1994 confirmed this distinction in asking more than two hundred college students the question “Who are you?” Among the many answers given, the students identified themselves with a country.1 When the shelter and powerful protection afforded by the nation was attacked symbolically through the destruction of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the individual American may have begun to feel insecure in his country’s position as a dominating and undefeatable world power, and subsequently his own. An attack on the country may be felt as an attack on the individual because nationality is so much a part of one’s individual self-concept and how one defines himself. The individual will take the attack personally and his perception of the invincibility of the great, sheltering and powerful nation will be shattered. The insecurity caused by terrorism could create major psychological trauma and psychiatric problems. Feelings of helplessness, depression, demoralization, and hopelessness are frequently found in terrorist attack survivors. Many survivors develop post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems.2 This same depression and demoralization may be seen throughout the country in American individuals because of how strongly they may identify with the American victims even though they do not know them.
The attack may not just be viewed as one on the sacred “bigness” of America, but on the social group one identifies himself with. How does the individual assign such emotional identification to people so radically different except for the fact that they are “Americans?” In setting oneself apart from humankind as a whole (aka: socially differentiating oneself1), one identifies with a certain group and assigns value to the other members of the group. Despite the differences within the group, each individual is included because his “sameness” (whether perceived or actual) overrides his differences.3 In saying that one is an American, he identifies himself with all other Americans and therefore may be touched more by disasters happening to his fellow Americans than by people of different countries. For example, a person living in San Diego, about 50 miles from the Mexican border and 3000 miles from New York or Washington, may not feel as deeply effected by a similar acts of terrorism in Mexico as in the US.
“Psychological ownership”4 of the country also plays a part in identification with the victims. When one “owns” an item, piece of land, person, or concept, he imbues it with heightened value because it becomes part of his self. This psychological ownership makes the country an intrical part of the individual:
“In principle the life of an individuated actor is celebrated through creativity, which is the imposition of one’s choices on the physical and social world, and in proprietorship, which is the establishment of permanent bonds between self and the products resulting from creative activity.
Nationalism is an ideology….called possessive individualism.”5
Sharing the country with the others living in it is essentially sharing a part of oneself. The individual may, therefore, subconsciously assign his social group, his fellow Americans or etc., with more value. (i.e. “This is my glorious country and the members of it are my brothers.”) An attack on this group of many unknown, yet dear, individuals could cause emotional trauma to the individual.
The sudden spike in patriotism as shown through the sale of flags and the voluntary censorship of tv shows, comedy routines, and radio stations could also indicate the innate value and identification one gives to one’s country and fellow citizens. Wal-Mart sold 450,000 flags in the period of September 11-13 when in that same period in the previous year they only sold 26,000.5 By displaying the flag people show support for the victims, support for their country as a whole and also their outrage against the terrorist act. As Anne Collins Smith says, “Any traumatic event tends to be treated as sacred and, consequently, not usable as fodder for humorous comment.” 6 The general attitude of society does not tolerate the lack of patriotism in times such as these. Even such shocker comedians as Howard Stern become patriotic, joking at the expense of the Arabs and glorifying the cops and firefighters. Patriotism is “the desire to raise the prestige and power of one's own nation state relative to rivals in the international system”7 After attacks the individuals within this perceived social group, the nation, band together against a common enemy, furthering their social identification as supporters/citizens of the country.
While Americans may be effected by the massacre because they identify socially with the victims, People of different countries may also be just as effected. While the terrorists were symbolically attacking the economic and defense power of America by crashing the planes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, they, in the process, ended many innocent human lives. The effects in relation to the magnitude of deaths and way in which the victims died, may come about because of a basic human identification we all posses so that foreigners may feel it just as strongly as Americans. Also, it should be noted here that the victims of the attacks came from more than 65 nations. There has been an outpour of grief and condolences from almost all countries of the world. The president of Ghana issued a statement on September 12 saying: “We consider the attacks as a strike against humanity and civilization all over the world.”8 Other such statements come from countries such as Ethiopia: “the criminal and cowardly acts of terror that have struck America have created a deep sense of grief and sorrow here in Ethiopia."8 France also reacted with conviction. Chirac, the president of France, said “I am very, very moved today as have been over the last week. All the French people have been terribly shocked and traumatized by what happened here, such a drama which nobody could have imagined.” The president acknowledged the violence and tragedies of the past in France but said that this event exceeded them all. He commented on the 96% of the French population that “feels at one with the United States.” National agreement of this magnitude does not occur often.9
However, despite this outpour of grief from most countries of the world, the people of Iraq seem to have a differing and interesting opinion on the tragedy. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz “criticized the United States and Arab rulers who ‘rushed to condemn the event’ of Tuesday’s terror attacks on New York and Washington.” He said, “What happened on September 11, 2001 should be compared to what their government and their armies are doing in the world.”10 In this case he is not relating to the victims as humans and therefore similar and valuable as himself, but rather as part of a force that has been oppressing and controlling people (specifically his) around the world for years.

1 Baron, R. A. & Byrne, D. (200). Aspects of social identity: Self and gender. In R. A. Baron and
D. Byrne Social psychology (9th ed.). Boston, Ma: Allyn and Bacon.
3 Handler, Richard. Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in Quebec. New Directions in
Antropoligical Writing: History, Poetics, Cultural Criticism, ed. George E.; Clifford Marcus, James. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988, pp. 6-8.
4 Brown, Jonathon D. The Self. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 1998. pp. 21.
6 Andy Seiler. Humor crosses certain lines when fear, pressure increase. USA TODAY October 4th 2001
7 Hechter, Michael. Containing Nationalism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press,
2000. See pages 15-17.
8 http://usinfo.state.gove/topical/pol/terror/01092007.htm Africans Condemn September 11 Terrorist
Attacks on the United States
9 Chirac Brings Condolences to People of New

A group of 20 individuals of other countries.
A group of 20 American individuals.
The attached survey regarding the September 11th attacks.

How has the recent acts of terrorism affected you?

This survey is being done by a group of students for a class project. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. We wish for those surveyed to be completely anonymous, so please, do not tell us your name. If the questions are in any way offensive or too personal, you do not have to answer them. Your input in any of these areas would be extremely helpful. Thank you for your participation!

Religion __________________________________________________
Country of origin___________________________________________
Parent’s country(ies) of origin_________________________________
Time you have lived in the U.S.________________________________
Regardless of actual citizenship or nationality, which country do you identify with most?_________________________________________

The following questions concern the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001.

Strongly Agree………...Strongly Disagree

I was exposed to a great deal of news
coverage (television reports, newspaper, etc.) 1 2 3 4 5
in the first week of the attacks.
Terrorist attacks occur frequently
in my home country. 1 2 3 4 5

I identify/empathize with the U.S. greatly. 1 2 3 4 5
I have had previous exposure to
attacks like the ones in New York
and Washington. 1 2 3 4 5
I felt personally affected by the
attacks. 1 2 3 4 5
I feel that the attacks were an invasion
on my personal freedom. 1 2 3 4 5
The acts of terrorism affected my feelings of
personal safety in the United States. 1 2 3 4 5
They affected my feelings of safety in the
rest of the world. 1 2 3 4 5

Strongly Agree………...Strongly Disagree

I felt obligated to help the victims. 1 2 3 4 5
I got involved very much in the relief
effort by volunteering, giving blood, 1 2 3 4 5
donating food/money, etc.
I would like military retaliation, to
the point of war if necessary. 1 2 3 4 5

I would join the military/army/air force
and go to war. 1 2 3 4 5

My confidence in the US
defenses was high before the attacks. 1 2 3 4 5

My confidence in the US
defenses is just as high now. 1 2 3 4 5

The nation’s defenses should be
greatly strengthened. 1 2 3 4 5
Further Questions:

My initial emotional response to the attacks: _________________________

I know someone directly affected by the attacks. YES NO

I know someone indirectly affected by the attacks. YES NO

I respond in the same way to acts of terrorism in other countries.
(i.e. The situation in Israel) YES NO

For our experiment we surveyed a group of college students who identify themselves as part of countries other than the United States. We canvassed the international dorms in search of students such as these. We also gave the same survey to a group of students who identify themselves as part of the United States. We then compared the results. Since it was a short survey, we handed it to the students and waited for them to fill it out in order to ensure that they did it. Although comparing the data of those who identify themselves with other countries and are living here with those who identify themselves with other countries and are living in those countries would have been interesting, we purposefully did not do this. We focused on people who are living here. The subjects were not required to answer any of the questions that offend them, but they were encouraged to answer all of them.
One concern we have with the surveys is the ways in which the questions may be interpreted by the participants. We attempted to make the questions as specific as possible to avoid confusion, yet we did not ask for free responses. The participants were asked to rate their feelings on a scale of 1-5 or answer with “Yes” or “No.”
We asked to class to participate in the survey, however did not use their answers in our analyzation of results because of time constraints. We then drew conclusions as a class based on the information.
Note: See survey attached before.

When we entered the data that we received from our surveys, we included only certain questions that seemed the most relevant to our topic. The variables that we first entered were: the amount of news coverage that the participants were exposed to, whether attacks like this one are frequent in their country of origin, whether or not they felt personally affected by the attacks, whether or not they felt obligated to help the victims, their actual involvement in the relief efforts, and whether or not they had the same response to this event that they did to acts of terrorism in other countries. We then narrowed down our number of questions even more for our tests. The final variables that we chose for our tests were: whether or not they felt personally affected by the attacks, whether or not they felt obligated to help the victims, and their actual involvement in the relief efforts. These tests were done to see if there was a correlation between their country of origin and a specific variable we were testing for. We also compared some of those same variables to whether or not they knew someone directly affected by the attacks.
The first test (as shown on the next page) involved their country of origin versus whether or not they felt obligated to help the victims. This test had the largest difference between the means. We got a P-value of .7016. This means that there is a 70.16% probability that the variance was due to chance alone. From this we know that we must accept the null hypothesis. This means that there was no significant difference between the students who were born in the U.S. and those who were born in other countries in relation to their obligation.

The second test (as shown below) involved their country of origin in relation to whether they felt personally affected by the attacks. There was only a slight difference in their means. We got a P-value of .3560. This means that there is a 35.60% probability that the variance was due to chance alone. From this we know that we must accept the null hypothesis. This means that there was no significant difference between the students who were born in the U.S. and those who were born in other countries in relation to whether they felt personally affected.

The third test (below) involved their country of origin in relation to their actual involvement in the relief efforts. By looking at the foreign countries that had more than one student interviewed, we found some interesting results. We found that the four students from Kenya and Japan did very little in helping with the relief funds. These students all ranked themselves between the average and the low end of this category. These four students didn’t have that much of an impact on the mean of the total foreign students, however, because they were only four out of twenty. All the other countries, including the ones with only one student interviewed, were more involved in helping with the relief fund. These students all ranked themselves from the average to the high end of this category. We got a P-value of .1636. This means that there is a 16.36% probability that the variance was due to chance alone. From this we know that we must accept the null hypothesis. This means that there was no significant difference between the students who were born in the U.S. and those who were born in other countries in relation to their involvement in the relief efforts.

The last test involved whether they knew someone who was directly affected in the attacks in relation to their actual involvement in the relief efforts. The difference in the means was again small. We got a P-value of .0858. This means that there is a 8.58% probability that the variance was due to chance alone. Although this was our smallest P-value, we must still accept the null hypothesis. This means that there was no significant difference between the students who knew someone who was directly affected in the attacks in relation to their involvement in the relief efforts.

There are many factors that must to be taken into consideration when
evaluating our research and its findings. The results of our surveys
seem to indicate that our hypothesis was incorrect and that there was
no difference between the way foreign versus US students responded to
the terrorist attacks on September 11.

Our results showed that there was no significant difference between
foreign and US students in the way that they responded to questions
regarding their feelings of obligation to help victims, their
involvement in relief efforts, or how personally affected they were by
the September 11 attacks. Our results also showed that there was no
significant difference between students who knew someone directly
involved in the attacks and their own involvement in the relief
efforts. Our research and our data were not, however, sufficient to
provide us with any conclusive reasons why this might be the case. We
fully expected that there would be significant differences found in our
results, and so we conducted our research with this in mind. There is
much in the research to support our hypothesis, but very little which
could potentially explain its disproving. It is possible, however,
that our results are due to factors which were overlooked when we
formulated our hypothesis and when we wrote the experiment.

The cultural aspects in our society and environment here at Miami
University play a role in the results of our survey. In deciding our
hypothesis and ultimate research project, we failed to consider the
great diversity of the American participants. The group of people
surveyed and placed in the category of "American" are diverse in
religion, ideologies, and political platforms. People may not identify
with a country so much as a religion, which has more influence on moral
and ethical thinking. Also, many of the foreign participants in our
study, because they are Miami students, have spent a good amount of
time in the United states. They have forged friendships with their
American friends, roommates, professors, et cetera, and may therefore
have an attachment to this country as well as their own. These
oversights may explain why there is no significant difference between
the American and foreign participants in respect to how personally
affected they felt by the attacks, as well as their feelings of
obligation to help and their actual involvement in the relief efforts.

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