Psychological Stress Experiments on Soldiers

     Psychologist Mitchell Berkun, of the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO), served as principle investigator for the three Cold War, psychological stress studies presented here. Can soldiers keep their emotional bearings when confronted by a nuclear explosion?  Can soldiers manage their technical equipment under stress of various (simulated) accidents—airplane malfunction, accidental irradiation, an approaching forest fire, incoming artillery fire, etc.?  How do soldiers respond when they believe they will die in a few minutes due to a medic’s error? 

I. Soldiers’ Psychological Stress upon Close Observation of a Nuclear Test Shot

(Cold War, Nevada Test Site, 1958)

II. Soldiers’ Technical Skills under Psychological Stress in Military Maneuvers

(Cold War, Presidio of Monterrey, CA, 1962)

III. Soldiers’ Psychological Stress in a Medical Context—The “Air Bubble” Experiment

(Cold War, late 1950s)


Berkun, Mitchell M., Bialek, Hilton M., Kern, Richard P., & Yagi, Kan. (1962). Experimental studies of psychological stress in man [Special issue]. Psychological Monographs:  General and Applied, 76 (15).

Berkun, M. M., Timiras, P. S., & Pace, N. (1958). Psychological and physiological responses in observers of an atomic test shot. Psychological Reports, 4, 679-682.

Secord, Paul, Backman, Carl, Elms, Alan, & Arrigo, Jean Maria. (1997-1998). Correspondence concerning  Mitchell, Berkun’s psychological stress experiments. Intelligence Ethics Collection, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.