Authors: Nicholas P. Murray, William Lewinski, Gustavo Sandri Heidner, Joshua Lawton & Robert Horn
Police officers during dynamic and stressful encounters are required to make rapid decisions that rely on effective decision-making, experience, and intuition. Tactical decision-making is influenced by the officer’s capability to recognize critical visual information and estimation of threat. The purpose of the current study is to investigate how visual search patterns using cluster analysis and factors that differentiate expertise (e.g., years of service, tactical training, related experiences) influence tactical decision-making in active-duty police officers (44 active-duty police officers) during high stress, high threat, realistic use of force scenario following a car accident and to examine the relationships between visual search patterns and physiological response (heart rate). A cluster analysis of visual search variables (fixation duration, fixation location difference score, and number of fixations) produced an Efficient Scan and an Inefficient Scan group. Specifically, the Efficient Scan group demonstrated longer total fixation duration and differences in area of interests (AOI) fixation duration compared to the Inefficient Scan group. Despite both groups exhibiting a rise in physiological stress response (HR) throughout the high-stress scenario, the Efficient Scan group had a history of tactical training, improved return fire performance, had higher sleep time total, and demonstrated increased processing efficiency and effective attentional control, due to having a background of increased tactical training.