Revealing perceptual-cognitive expertise in law enforcement: an iterative approach using verbal-report, temporal-occlusion, and option-generation methods
Suss, Joel M.
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Suss, J. & Ward, P. Cogn Tech Work (2018) 20: 585
Despite the attention garnered in the media about police use of force, there have been relatively few investigations of perceptual-cognitive skill in law enforcement using the naturalistic-decision-making approach. In this paper, we provide an overview of a series of four studies in which we investigated experience-based differences in police officer decision making in complex, rapidly unfolding, and uncertain situations. In these naturalistic situations, decision makers must first generatefor themselvesat least one option before intervening or taking action. We sought to test hypotheses about option-generation processes derived from apparently competing theories of skilled decision making and expert sensemaking. These two theories can be considered as representing two phases of decision making: skilled decision making focuses on selecting an appropriate course of action, while expert sensemaking addresses situational assessment and diagnosis. In the studies, we employed a variety of cognitive task analysis techniques, including experiments using option-generation and temporal-occlusion methods and process tracing measures (e.g., retrospective verbal reports, video-stimulated recall). Based on the data, we conclude that the two theoretical approachesskilled decision making and expert sensemakingappear to be complementary rather than competing. When the situation is relatively familiar, officers can quickly recognize the situation and identify an appropriate response. However, when situations are less familiar, more complex, and/or more uncertain, officers may need to engage in rapid sensemaking or situational diagnosis so that they can quickly comprehend the situation. We discuss implications for law enforcement officers and for law enforcement training.
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