In addition to various physical obstacles, the cave environment presents numerous psychological stressors that challenge human explorers. Sources of psychological stress include logistic issues (e.g., limitations to access, communication, and the availability of equipment), a lack of normal sensory stimuli, isolation and confinement, high performance demands, and social conflict associated with team coordination and requirements for cooperation. Thus, the success and safety of caving expeditions depend on the ability of explorers to effectively cope with highly stressful conditions and task demands. This was the first study to investigate coping within the context of caving and cave exploration. Utilizing scoring criteria from Suedfeld, Brcic, and Legkaia (2009), the narratives of 30 cave explorers were content analyzed for mentions of coping strategies across different expedition phases (pre-, during-, and postexpedition). Nationality and leadership status were also examined as potential moderators of coping. Narratives on the exploration of terrestrial, underwater, and terraqueous (i.e. sump-containing) caves were treated as unique conditions given marked differences in these forms of cave exploration. Consistent with previous research on groups performing in extreme and unusual environments, references to problem-focused coping strategies were, overall, more common than those to emotion-focused strategies. However, temporal analyses of coping across expedition phases showed that a more balanced coping orientation emerged post-expedition, with a significant difference in the use of problem-focused versus emotion-focused strategies no longer detectable. Significant effects of cave exploration type and nationality on the reference percentage of particular coping strategies were also detected. The relevance and implications of these findings are discussed, as well as limitations and directions for future research.
MacNeil, Raymond R. and Brcic, Jelena
"Coping With the Subterranean Environment: A Thematic Content Analysis of the Narratives of Cave Explorers,"
Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments: Vol. 13
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jhpee/vol13/iss1/6