Itchy Trigger Finger? How About Itchy Brain?

February 10, 2015 6:15 PM

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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 f...

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