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THE MENTAL HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF WORKING IN A LUNAR SETTLEMENT. CHESTER S. SPELL School of Business-Camden Rutgers University cspell@camden.rutgers.edu. Technology makes it possible for human beings to live and work in places that in the past we could neither reach nor have survived in.

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THE MENTAL HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF WORKING IN A LUNAR SETTLEMENT

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The mental health implications of working in a lunar settlement

THE MENTAL HEALTHIMPLICATIONS OF WORKING IN A LUNAR SETTLEMENT

CHESTER S. SPELLSchool of Business-CamdenRutgers Universitycspell@camden.rutgers.edu


The mental health implications of working in a lunar settlement

  • Technology makes it possible for human beings to live and work in places that in the past we could neither reach nor have survived in.

  • Extreme environments (e.g. Lunar base) present unique opportunities for psychological research and applications.


Prior research

Prior Research

Psychological research of EUEs:

  • polar stations

  • space vehicles

  • undersea habitats

    Methods : psychometric and projective tests, interviews, participant observations, field studies, simulations


The good news

The Good News

  • Autobiographical accounts of astronauts(Collins 1974).

  • Polar crews report many more positive than negative experiences

  • Twenty-six of 28 participants in a undersea habitat study were willing to do it again


Perception and reality

Perception and reality

  • How people experience an environment is more important than the objective characteristics of the environment (Suedfeld 1991).


Potential negative impact on psychological well being

Potential negative impact on psychological well-being

Social isolation

Confinement

Sensory restriction

Circadian Rhythms


Confinement monotony

Confinement & Monotony

  • After 2 weeks the foremost psychological irritants were inadequate leadership and the behavior of others (Smith,1969) .

  • Members with low social coherence report significantly more depression, anxiety, and anger (Palinkas,2003)


Conflict

Conflict

  • Murderous attack over a chess game (Palinkas 1990)

  • Assault with a hammer (New Zealand Herald 1996).

  • Foreign visitors in Russian and American space flights felt marginalized.


Are prior results relevant for a lunar base

Are prior results relevant for a lunar base?

  • Unlikely that we can generalize data from Mercury missions, Shuttle missions of a week or two, Mir space station missions of 6–12 months.


Our research study 1

Our research:Study 1

  • People working in groups share perceptions of fairness of work assignments, responsibility, etc.

  • The work group’s “fairness climate” can affect individual levels of anxiety and depression (Spell & Arnold, in press)

  • Social contagion-feelings of fairness (or unfairness)


The mental health implications of working in a lunar settlement

  • Implication: in cohesive groups (limited interaction outside of group) establishing and maintaining fair procedures especially significant


Our research study 2

Our research:Study 2

  • Faultlines: subgroups or divisions

    • Gender

    • Age

    • Experience level

    • Ethnic group

  • groups with strong faultlines and unsupportive supervisors were less anxious and depressed than groups with weak faultlines

  • groups with strong faultlines and perceived unfairness were less anxious and depressed than groups with weak faultlines


Implications

Implications

  • Group composition affects individual mental health

  • In diverse work groups, importance of supportive supervisor trained in leadership

  • Speculation: effects exacerbated in extreme and isolated work environment of a lunar base


Recommendations

Recommendations

  • Radloff & Helmreich: those who were considered best suited to working under water could also walk on it(!)

  • (Russian) space program:stress test requiring a group of candidates to drive a small car cross-country

  • Select crews, not just individuals


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