Law enforcement officers are called on to make split-second decisions that can have life or death consequences. Researchers posited that faster and more accurate decisions under tighter control could affect these outcomes.
Independent researchers randomized officers into an intervention group (assigned training in visual speed, accuracy, and inhibition control exercises) and a control group (assigned training in visual memory and spatial relations exercises). The officers were asked to train for 10-15 minutes per day for four weeks.
The officers went through a pre-training ‘shoot/don’t shoot’ assessment on a shooting range with live ammunition. Each officer was told to shoot at a target of a man holding a gun and to withhold fire from a target of the same man holding a cell phone. Targets popped up and down across the range at a speed of less than a second per target. Initially, there was no difference between the two groups.
After the training, the researchers found the intervention group was significantly better (29%) than the control group in overall accuracy. More, importantly, they found the most common error in a live fire situation was not withholding firing. Looking at that error, the researchers found the intervention group had a 60% decrease in shooting the unarmed target.