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Psychiatrist: NASA Astronauts Largely Free of Self-Doubt

Dec. 28, 1962 - The main difference between astronauts and most of the rest of us is they know how to control their anxieties — in fact, they perform best when the stress is greatest. “They are not men who know no fear. They just happen to know how to keep feelings blocked out of their professional function as pilots,” Dr. George Ruff, the astronauts’ psychiatrist, declared in Philadelphia today. After giving the astronauts tests for more than three years, Dr. Ruff and Dr. Sheldon Korchin, a psychologist, concluded that their subjects are individualists with strong egos who are largely free of self-doubt. They believe strongly in their own competence, and when they do sense an inadequacy, they work on it until it becomes competence. If there is any lesson to be learned by the rest of us, Dr. Ruff said, it would be the desirability of preparing ahead of time a course of action for every foreseeable eventuality. The psychologist said the astronauts pay little mind to the possibility of death because they have great concern with success and are confident in their own ability to achieve it. “They have considered the risks, and they know what they’re doing,” Dr. Ruff said. “The rest they don’t worry about.”


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