Authors E. Ashby Plant and B. Michelle Peruche, both of Florida State University, studied 50 police officers from Florida using a computer simulation in which a gun or a neutral object (a wallet or a cell phone) was superimposed onto a white or black face. The police officers then had to choose to shoot or not to shoot by pressing a designated key.
The earlier trials revealed that the officers were more likely to mistakenly shoot at an unarmed black suspect than at an unarmed white suspect. "However, on a more promising note, after extensive exposure to the program, the officers were able to eliminate this bias," the authors state. In later trials, officers were more accurate in their decisions to fire at suspects of either race due to their more accurate detection of weapons.
The authors stated, "These findings have important implications for both the elimination of racial biases in general and the training of police officers more specifically." The authors suggest future work to test whether elimination of racial bias on the computer simulation generalizes to actual decision making in the field. If so, "training on such simulations may provide an important tool for improving overall accuracy in police officers' decisions to shoot."
For more information, contact E. Ashby Plant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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