Shoot/No-Shoot Decisions: Dissociation, Judgment, and Assailant/Weapon Characteristics

  • Schuyler W. Liao
  • Jana L. Price-Sharps
  • Matthew J. Sharps
Article

Abstract

Shoot/no-shoot decisions in law enforcement are under increasing scrutiny nationwide. However, little research has addressed the ways in which factors related to assailants and weapons influence these decisions. In the present research, images of adult male, adult female, and juvenile (female) assailants presented simulated direct threats to respondents. Assailants were armed with a pistol, a knife, or a glass bottle. Respondents were asked to indicate whether or not they would shoot in the presence of these threats. Respondents also completed the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES). Tendencies toward dissociation, a process generating a sense of unreality, influenced the performance of males who shot; more dissociated men took more time to fire. However, dissociation did not influence the performance of women. Sex and youth of the assailant had no effects on the shoot/no-shoot performance of either men or women, and oddly, weapon type had no significant effect on women’s performance, although men were more likely to fire on an assailant of either age or sex armed with a gun or knife than a bottle. These results are discussed in terms of relevance for law enforcement training and for juridical proceedings in shoot/no-shoot cases.

Keywords

Shoot/no-shoot decisions Tactical decisions Analogue/appraisal theory Dissociation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge that this research was conducted in laboratory facilities directed by the third author at the California State University, Fresno, and was also conducted under normal research auspices for faculty of that institution.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This project received full ethical approval from the Human Subjects Committee, Department of Psychology, College of Science and Mathematics, California State University, Fresno. The project was approved as a “minimal risk” procedure for human subjects.

Informed Consent

All human subjects of this research were provided with full informed consent according to the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association, standard for this field. All were adults, and all indicated that they had fully read the Informed Consent form and the research descriptions contained therein, and signed the form to give their consent to participation in the research.

References

  1. Cardena E (1997) Dissociative disorders: phantoms of the self. In: Turner SM, Hersen M (eds) Adult psychopathology and diagnosis (3rd ed.), 400. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Carlson EB, Putnam FW (1986) Development, reliability, and validity of a dissociation scale. J Nerv Ment Disord 174:727–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Correll J, Park B, Judd CM, Wittenbrink B, Sadler MS, Keesee T (2007) Across the thin blue line: police officers and racial bias in the decision to shoot. J Pers Soc Psychol 92:1006–1023CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Devine DJ, Caughlin DE (2014) Do they matter? A meta-analytic investigation of individual differences and guilt judgments. Psychol Public Policy and Law 20:109–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Herrera MR, Sharps MJ, Swinney HR, Lam J (2015) Deadly force or not? Visual and cognitive interpretation of rifles and BB guns in crime-scene context. J Police Crim Psychol 30:254–260.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-014-9158-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Maeder EM, Ewanation LA, Monnink J (2017) Juror’s perceptions of evidence: the relative influence of DNA and eyewitness testimony when presented by opposing parties. J Police Crim Psychol 32:33–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. McRae K, Sharps MJ, Power J, Newton A (2013) Eyewitness memory for typical and atypical weapons in cognitive context. J Investig Psychol Offender Profiling 10.  https://doi.org/10.1002/jip.1410
  8. McRae K, Sharps MJ, Kimura N (2015) Error and accuracy in memory for firearms. Forensic Examiner 24:1–6Google Scholar
  9. Sharps MJ (2003) Aging, representation, and thought: gestalt and feature-intensive processing. Transaction Publishers, PiscatawayGoogle Scholar
  10. Sharps MJ (2012) The mental edge: effective cognitive processing in law enforcement. The Police Chief 79:100–105Google Scholar
  11. Sharps MJ (2017) Processing under pressure: stress, memory, and decision in law enforcement, 2nd edn. Looseleaf Law, FlushingGoogle Scholar
  12. Sharps MJ, Hess AB (2008) To shoot or not to shoot: response and interpretation of response to armed assailants. Forensic Examiner 17:53–64Google Scholar
  13. Sharps MJ, Welton A, Price JL (1993) Gender and task in the determination of spatial cognitive performance. Psychol Women Q 17:71–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Sharps MJ, Price JL, Williams J (1994) Spatial cognition and gender: instructional influences on mental image rotation performance. Psychol Women Q 18:413–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sharps MJ, Barber TL, Stahl H, Villegas AB (2003) Eyewitness memory for weapons. Forensic Examiner 12:34–37Google Scholar
  16. Sharps MJ, Matthews J, Asten J (2006) Cognition, affect, and beliefs in paranormal phenomena: gestalt/feature intensive processing theory and tendencies toward ADHD, depression, and dissociation. J Psychol 140:579–590CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Sharps MJ, Newborg E, Van Arsdall S, DeRuiter J, Hayward B, Alcantar B (2010) Paranormal encounters as eyewitness phenomena: psychological determinants of atypical perceptual interpretations. Curr Psychol 29:320–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Sharps MJ, Liao SW, Herrera MR (2013) It’s the end of the world, and they don’t feel fine: the psychology of December 21, 2012. Skept Inq 37:34–39Google Scholar
  19. Sharps MJ, Liao SW, Herrera MR (2014) Remembrance of apocalypse past: the psychology of true believers when nothing happens. Skept Inq 38:54–58Google Scholar
  20. Sharps MJ, Liao SW, Herrera MR (2016a) Dissociation and paranormal beliefs: toward a taxonomy of belief in the unreal. Skept Inq 40:40–44Google Scholar
  21. Sharps MJ, McRae K, Partovi M, Power J, Newton A (2016b) Eyewitness memory for firearms: narrative accounts and specific questioning in the elucidation of accurate information. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology 31:288–294.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-015-9184-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Smith CA, Kirby LD (2009) Putting appraisal in context: toward a relational model of appraisal and emotion. Cognit Emot 23:1352–1372CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Schuyler W. Liao
    • 1
  • Jana L. Price-Sharps
    • 2
    • 3
  • Matthew J. Sharps
    • 3
  1. 1.California Department of Corrections and RehabilitationSacramentoUSA
  2. 2.Walden UniversityMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.California State University, FresnoFresnoUSA

Personalised recommendations