Psychological Reactions to the Nuclear War Threat

Thomas M. Skovholt, Richard C. Williams, Cynthia Steffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In three studies we investigated denial and related concepts ('phenomena of make believe', 'psychic numbing', 'blotting out the idea' and 'veil of denial') as the predominant human psychological responses to the nuclear war threat. We found support for this assertion within the subjects' emotional reactions of overwhelming fear and sadness. To reduce the paralyzing effect of the denial response, we suggest three steps: immersing ourselves in the negative affect, presenting moderate fear arousal messages, and promoting active involvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalMedicine and War
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988


  • Denial
  • Nuclear war threat
  • Social activity

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