Perception over personality in lethal force: Aggression, impulsivity, and big five traits in threat assessments and behavioral responses due to weapon presence and posture
Biggs, Adam T.
Hamilton, Joseph A.
Suss, Joel M.
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Adam T. Biggs, Joel Suss, Sarah Sherwood, Joseph A. Hamilton, Tatana Olson; Perception Over Personality in Lethal Force: Aggression, Impulsivity, and Big Five Traits in Threat Assessments and Behavioral Responses due to Weapon Presence and Posture. The American Journal of Psychology 1 January 2022; 135 (2): 195–214. doi: https://doi.org/10.5406/19398298.135.2.06
The use of lethal force is a combination of threat perception and individual judgment that sometimes warrants a behavioral response. This simplified description implicates perceptual factors and individual differences in lethal force decision making, which ongoing research continues to address. However, personality-based factors have been less explored as to how they might affect either threat perception or behavioral responses in a lethal force decision. The current investigation examined multiple personality traits with the potential to influence lethal force decision making, including aggression, impulsivity, and the Big Five traits. These measures were compared to threat perception and behavioral responses made to a variety of lethal force stimuli broadly categorized as clear threats, ambiguous threats, and clear nonthreats. Samples were recruited from combat-trained infantry, military recruits, and the civilian community to control for prior lethal force training. Although there was a strong omnibus relationship between threat perception and the likelihood of a behavioral response, neither military training nor personality differences had any impact on threat perception or a binary (e.g., shoot/don’t-shoot) behavioral response. Therefore, we conclude that perception dominates personality in lethal force decision making when the threat assessment decision is limited to factors such as weapon presence or posture rather than emotion.
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