Itchy Trigger Finger? How About Itchy Brain?

Police work is very dangerous, often involving bad people with guns, and one of the most dangerous policing tasks is searching and clearing a house. This is where the police go room to room through a building, in pursuit of a suspect, who may be armed and dangerous. The police officer must be fully prepared to shoot–finger on the trigger, mind alert–in case he or she does confront a suspect who is armed and ready to shoot. But the officer must also have the self-restraint not to pull the trigger if he or she bursts into a room and confronts an innocent bystander.

Getting this right is cognitively challenging, which is one reason innocent people get shot–not just by the police but by soldiers as well. Shooting a gun involves a complex cascade of actions, each linked to a specific cognitive ability. From a psychological perspective, a police officer in this frightening situation must mentally inhibit an already initiated action–stop in his tracks, cognitively–in order not to squeeze the trigger if an innocent person is detected. And it all happens instantaneously.

Psychological scientist Adams Biggs of Duke University has been studying shooting performance and cognition. As part of this project, he has —> Read More Here


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