Gun or wallet: the role of perceptual-cognitive skill in use-of-force decisions

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Raushel, Alexis
Suss, Joel M.
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Research Projects
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Raushel, Alexis. 2018. Gun or wallet: the role of perceptual-cognitive skill in use-of-force decisions -- In Proceedings: 14th Annual Symposium on Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects. Wichita, KS: Wichita State University, p. 52

Police use-of-force decisions are a hot topic that saturates the media, however little is known about the nature of these decisions. Officers go through use-of-force simulations as part of their training, however these training programs are typically created on a department-by-department basis using the intuition of local police officers. Most importantly, these programs have not been empirically tested to reveal whether they improve police use-of-force decision accuracy. Cognitive psychology offers a principled way to study decision making, specifically through perceptual-cognitive expertise. This expertise is the ability to identify relevant information from a scenario and integrate it with existing knowledge so that an accurate response can be performed, and has been studied extensively in sport for over 25 years. The current study proposes to use the temporal occlusion paradigm from sports psychology to test a basic assumption: do people have the ability to discriminate between a gun and a wallet in a video simulation? Participants watched a series of video clips in which the actor begins to draw an object out of their pocket. The video was then temporally occluded (i.e., replaced with a black screen) at intervals just before the object is revealed. Participants indicated if the object is going to be a weapon (e.g., gun) or non-weapon (e.g., wallet). This study reveals that more information about a scene does not necessarily lead to more accurate decisions. These results allow for further informed study of the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms behind use-of-force decisions.

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Presented to the 14th Annual Symposium on Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects (GRASP) held at the Rhatigan Student Center, Wichita State University, April 27, 2018.
Research completed in the Department of Psychology, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Wichita State University
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v. 14
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