The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health
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The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health

Updesh Kumar, Updesh Kumar

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eBook - ePub

The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health

Updesh Kumar, Updesh Kumar

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Military psychology has become one of the world's fastest-growing disciplines with ever-emerging new applications of research and development. The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health is a compendium of chapters by internationally renowned scholars in the field, bringing forth the state of the art in the theory, practice and future prospects of military psychology.

This uniquely interdisciplinary volume deliberates upon the current issues and applications of military psychology not only within the military organization and the discipline of psychology, but also in the larger context of its role of building a better world. Split into three parts dedicated to specific themes, the first part of the book, "Military Psychology: The Roots and the Journey, " provides an overview of the evolution of the discipline over the years, delving into concepts as varied as culture and cognition in the military, a perspective on the role of military psychology in future warfare and ethical issues. The second part, "Soldiering: Deployment and Beyond, " considers the complexities involved in soldiering in view of the changing nature of warfare, generating a focal discourse on various aspects of military leadership, soldier resilience and post-traumatic growth in the face of extreme situations, bravery and character strengths and transitioning to civilian life. In the final section, "Making a Choice: Mental Health Issues and Prospects in the Military, " the contributors focus on the challenges and practices involved in maintaining the mental health of the soldier, covering issues ranging from stress, mental health and well-being, through to suicide risk and its prevention, intervention and management strategies, moral injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Incorporating enlightening contributions of eminent scholars from around the world, the volume is a comprehensive repository of current perspectives and future directions in the domain of military psychology. It will prove a valuable resource for mental health practitioners, military leaders, policy-makers and academics and students across a range of disciplines.

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Part I
Military psychology: The roots and the journey
Military psychology in war and peace
An appraisal
Swati Mukherjee and Updesh Kumar
Psychology as a modern ‘scientific’ discipline has been a close ally of modern warfare, the two having established a mutually beneficial relationship, especially during the first half of the twentieth century and since. Military psychology has over the years established itself as a unique sub-discipline that determines its boundaries not through methodological concerns or subject content, but rather through its ability to optimally fulfil the requirements of the Armed Forces in specific contexts and under unique circumstances, making use of the advancements in the broader discipline of psychology. And in the endeavour, psychology has visibly made significant contributions to the military. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say, as Matthews says, ‘psychology is more relevant and viable today for the military, than at any point in history.’ (Matthews, 2014, P. 215). The growth of the sub-discipline of military psychology has been in tandem with the developments in the art and science of warfare. However, in the post–Cold War era with the international political equations rapidly changing, and in view of the unprecedented technological developments in the mechanics of warfare, the fundamental nature of war itself has undergone a metamorphosis. In this context, it becomes imperative for military psychologists to take stock of the discipline by asking the eternal question, as Bingham asked while striving to discern the pressing problems of military psychology, in the ‘chaotic days between war and peace’ after the Second World War – ‘What are the continuing problems of military psychology?’ (Bingham, 1947, P. 155). It is the same question that military psychology is faced with today even after the passage of half a century. The question seems to be gaining more relevance with increasing ambiguities and complexities of warfare, and the blurring boundaries between war and endeavours for peace. The present chapter begins by delineating the current standards of research and practice in military psychology in the context of the major historical trends in the discipline. Subsequently, it engages with the quintessential question of the dynamics between war and peace, and the precarious balance between the two, seeking to emphasise the need to enhance interaction between the domains of peace psychology and military psychology. The chapter concludes with an argument for structuring a nuanced ethical framework for research and practice of military psychology in order to prevent the discipline from becoming a mere cog in the machineries of war.
Psychology during the World Wars
The primary role of psychology in the military is to support and assist the armed forces in achieving their goals by ensuring fitness of selection, capability building through training and sustained mental fitness for effective operation under varied circumstances. And in this vein, beginning from the days of the First World War, military psychologists have been consistently working in tandem with the militaries of the countries on both sides of the Atlantic, although some of the authors reviewing the development of the discipline are of the opinion that psychology had a very limited scope in the military in the early years of the twentieth century. Reviewing the role psychologists played during the Great War (1914–1918), Shephard (2015), for example, says that the military scarcely knew about psychology, especially in Britain. Providing a succinct account of contributions of psychology to the war effort during the First World War, Shephard (2015) says that in Britain the role of civilian psychologists was limited mostly to treating ‘shell-shocked’ soldiers in military hospitals, drawing on their medical expertise and experience. Dr. Charles Meyers, for example, was appointed the Consultant Psychologist to the first Royal Army Medical Corps, and established mental health hospitals in tents behind the enemy lines in France. It was only in the later years of the war that some of these pioneering psychologists (e.g. Myers, Rivers, Spearman) could find some more significant and relevant applications of psychology in various branches of the military. No attempt, however, was made to apply psychology to the testing of military recruits (Shephard, 2015, P. 944). At the same time, psychologists in Europe had a better say in military matters. Shephard (2015) describes how Wilhelm Wundt, among other prominent cultural and academic figures, supported the German army’s stance against Belgium. Many of those involved in war were students of Wundt, due to which greater relevance was accorded to psychology in the war efforts on both shores of the Atlantic. Germany was a pioneer in establishing the discipline of psychology, and the German military benefitted from the industrial expertise gained by psychologists in the pre-war years. As a result, Germany started using aptitude tests for the selection of pilots, truck drivers, radio operators and other specialists as early as 1915. Psychologists performed many specified tasks for the German military, which did not have any long-term impact on the discipline – for example, a ‘listening device’ developed by Max Wertheimer for locating enemy artillery. On the other hand, certain explorations by psychologists while serving in uniform laid the foundations of later research in the fields of leadership, combat motivation, fatalism among soldiers and the like. Psychologists can be credited with making the German war effort ‘more scientific, rational and modern’ (Shephard, 2015, P. 945), and for demonstrating to the state the practical usefulness and applicability of the discipline, resulting in the creation of new positions of psychology in technology institutes and commercial academies (Geuter, 1992). Akin to Britain, France too had minimal involvement of psychologists in the war effort, wherein they devised some psycho-physical measurements of heart rate and respiration of machine gunners, but none of these countries employed large-scale military testing.
On the other side of the Atlantic, as the United States of America entered the war in the year 1917, psychologists with industry experience found useful employment in the military. The contributions of Walter Dill Scott and Robert M. Yerkes are remarkable in this era of early development of psychology in the military. By the end of the war, the Committee on the Classification of Personnel in the Army, which tested men for their aptitude in various fields of the military using Scott’s techniques, had interviewed and classified thousands of men. Yerkes was a pioneer in initiating a more formal association of psychology with the military, and, along with Terman, Goddard and a few others, is credited with the development of Army General Classification Tests (Army Alpha and Army Beta), measures that allowed for testing of large samples simultaneously. Reviewing the status of military psychology, Melton (1957) remarks that during the First World War, psychologists also engaged in development of job-knowledge tests, training of naval gunners, analysis of aircraft pilot ability and perhaps many other areas, of which written records no longer exist. Among other consequences, the implementation of large-scale testing in the military gave impetus to psychology in the United States and eventually led to the establishment of the Division of Psychology in the office of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army in the year 1917 (Mangelsdorff & Gal, 1991). On the whole, while some researchers go to the extent of claiming that ‘social and clinical psychology received a significant boost from the First World War and a new branch of the profession emerged in the shape of military psychology’ (Bourke, 2001), it is reasonable to conclude that the First World War at the minimum provided for conditions where psychology could envisage a new role for itself in the military.
The Second World War witnessed exponential expansion of the applications of psychology in the military, both in Britain and in the United States. Britain recruited a large number of psychologists in various branches of the armed forces, including the areas of personnel selection and health care systems (Hughes, McCauley, & Wilson, 2019). Significant contributions were made by psychology to the military efforts, and in recognition, the American Psychological Association (APA) included the Division of Military Psychology (Division 19) among its first group of formal subdivisions in the year 1945. A committee to evaluate the work of psychologists and psychiatrists in the armed forces during the war years was set up by the then-prime minister Winston Churchill. The committee reported upon the vital role played by the group in war, and as a result psychologists gained an official entry in the British civil services post war. Similarly, remarkable progress was being made in Germany in finding applications of psychology to military settings. Germany had made preliminary beginnings in this area during the First World War, wherein psychological technique was being applied for selection of drivers, pilots, wireless operators, sound detector operators and anti-aircraft personnel. After the war ended, the war ministry issued orders for development of psychology in the army, leading to rapid developments in the areas of personnel selection, resulting eventually in mandatory psychological testing using the ‘whole personality approach’ for selection of all armed forces officers (Fitts, 1946). Also, while much attention was given to selection in the armed forces by the German psychologists, not much contribution was made towards using psychology for structuring training. Similarly, clinical psychology found very limited application in an environment where decisions regarding psychogenic problems of...


Zitierstile fĂŒr The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health

APA 6 Citation

[author missing]. (2019). The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2019)

Chicago Citation

[author missing]. (2019) 2019. The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.

Harvard Citation

[author missing] (2019) The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

[author missing]. The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2019. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.