Police Decision-Making: The Impact of Choice on Use-of-Force Decisions
Summerfield, Tansi Susan Lillian
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Research on choice and decision-making has indicated that excessive choice can negatively influence decision-making performance. Choice overload research has mostly focused on consumer purchases, thereby limiting the generalizability to applied professional settings. This research examined 112 Canadian police cadets on decision-making in a use-of-force situation. Cadets interacted with a high threat virtual judgment scenario wherein they had to choose the most appropriate intervention option available to immobilize the subject and stop the threat. Cadets participated in one of two limited choice groups or one extensive choice group and were evaluated on performance, response time (RT), self-reported confidence, and physiological arousal. The goal of the research was to determine if choice overload occurs in applied police settings and whether increased arousal mediates the effect of choice on decisions. It was predicted that the participants with fewer choices would perform better, respond quicker, and be more confident than those with more choices and increased arousal would further decrease the extensive choice group’s performance, RT, and confidence. Choice overload was observed, but not in the predicted way; results revealed that greater choice did not have detrimental effects on decision-making. Instead, the specific intervention option participants had available (OC-spray vs. pistol) influenced performance, speed, and confidence more than number of choices did. Results also indicated no consistent pattern of arousal. It is recommended that further research be conducted to determine what impact the different intervention options available have on decision-making in use-of-force situations.