Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Police With Higher Multitasking Abilities Less Likely To Shoot Unarmed Persons

Date:
April 1, 2009
Source:
Georgia State University
Summary:
In the midst of life-threatening situations requiring split-second decisions, police officers with a higher ability to multitask are less likely to shoot unarmed persons when feeling threatened during video simulations, a new study suggests.

In the midst of life-threatening situations requiring split-second decisions, police officers with a higher ability to multitask are less likely to shoot unarmed persons when feeling threatened during video simulations, a new Georgia State University study suggests.

Related Articles


Heather Kleider, Dominic Parrott and Tricia King, assistant professors of psychology at Georgia State, have taken a unique look at officer-involved shooting situations, signs of negative emotions and working memory capacity — the capacity to perform multiple mental tasks, such as reasoning, at the same time.

Other studies have examined factors such as ethnicity, stereotypes, neighborhood crime rates and other factors, but this study examines the effects of police officers' characteristics on shooting decisions.

"In cognitive psychology, operation span, or working memory, is an overarching cognitive mechanism that indicates the ability to multitask, and the amount of available capacity to perform tasks varies by individual and situation," Kleider said. "People with a higher capacity are able to keep more things 'in play' at one time."

Urban police officers participated in the study, completing a test of working memory capacity, and then watched a video of an officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of the officer, during which time negative affect and stress indicators were measured; including elevated heart rates and increased sweating.

Following the video, officers participated in a computer-based simulation where they were required to make split-second decisions whether to shoot or not to shoot someone, based on 80 slides that presented a person holding either a gun or a harmless object like a cell phone, for only a fraction of a second. Officers then pressed either a "shoot" or a "don't shoot" button.

Analyzing the data, the researchers found that lower levels of working memory capacity increased the likelihood of shooting unarmed people among those officers who had higher levels of negative emotionality — a score determined by comparing readings of facial movement and heartbeat rates between a baseline reading and readings taken during the stressful situation.

Officers with a higher working memory capacity seemed to buffer officers against the negative effects of a threat when making shooting decisions.

"An important thing to consider is that some decision making requires controlled processing wherein balanced/accurate decisions require impulse control" Kleider explained. "For some people, this usurps a substantial amount of available working memory capacity to control impulses, and if you are someone with a lower capacity, it's harder to do."

Psychologists are not sure whether working memory capacity can be increased with training, but Kleider and her colleagues are planning to investigate this, and are also planning to work with several police departments on a broader study to see if training and years of experience influence shooting decisions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Shooting Behavior: How Working Memory and Negative Emotionality Influence Police Officer Shoot Decisions. Applied Cognitive Psychology, (in press)

Cite This Page:

Georgia State University. "Police With Higher Multitasking Abilities Less Likely To Shoot Unarmed Persons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330123223.htm>.
Georgia State University. (2009, April 1). Police With Higher Multitasking Abilities Less Likely To Shoot Unarmed Persons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330123223.htm
Georgia State University. "Police With Higher Multitasking Abilities Less Likely To Shoot Unarmed Persons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330123223.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins