About this Research Topic
Researchers have identified significant error rates in the application of lethal force among police in North America. Police officers are required to make rapid, high-stakes decisions on a routine basis, while assessing threat and the legal ramifications of their potential or actual behavioral intervention. Scientific research on making decisions during situations that are perceived as threatening is situated in the context of neurological and physiological processing and reactivity to threat. Empirical work demonstrates that core evolutionary responses, such as autonomic nervous system regulation, are integral to performance during stressful tasks requiring executive functions such as behavioral inhibition and attentional control. The stress experienced during high-stakes situations has been shown to consume a great deal of finite cognitive resources. Stress may impair expert performance by interfering with executive functioning, and these behavioral deficits are especially prevalent for tasks requiring working memory.
Despite advances in the empirical understanding of decision making during high-stakes events, the layperson discussion on police decision making is not informed by neurological processing of threat or psychophysiological reactivity to stress. Rather, social debate tends to focus on psychosocial issues, including attitudes and beliefs as the central drivers of police behavior. The set of articles included in this issue discuss internal factors that are both unique to police and law enforcement personnel, as well as universal impact factors for decision-making in high stress situations. Research articles will employ an evidence-based approach to probe empirical questions related to de-escalating high-stakes situations, and informed decision making regarding the use of force. This Research Topic will include articles discussing the internal factors driving decision-making processes among police professionals, including physiological mediators, neurological processing, and physical and mental health. Furthermore, a discussion of potential and on-going interventions targeting physiological and neurological factors that may be effective in reducing stress, and reducing errors in the application of police use of force, will be included.
Keywords: Police, De-escalation, Decision-Making, Executive Function, High-Stakes Reasoning
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