Date of Award

7-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Psychology

Program

Psychology - General

First Advisor/Chairperson

Dr. Josh Carlson

Abstract

Due to the nature of police work police officers are often placed in life threatening situations. To prepare officers for these interactions police academies employ use-of-force simulations to train relevant skills such as situational awareness and judgement. Repeated exposure to threatening situations, such as those in the use-of-force simulations, may alter the threat perception of the participant. Using self-report measures of anxiety (STAI-6 Item) and affect (PANAS), as well as respiration rate data, and short answer self-reports, the present study aims to determine if perception of threat is altered as a result of the use-of-force training, both directly after one training session and after completing the 16 week training. Two alternative hypotheses predict the outcome: a) the training will increase the participant’s situational awareness, in turn increasing threat perception with an increase in anxious symptoms and autonomic arousal as evidence, or b) the training will desensitize the participant to violence leading to decreased threat perception with decreased positive and negative affect, and decreased autonomic arousal as evidence. Evidence for the latter hypothesis was found indicating that repeated exposure to the use-of-force training simulation increased participant’s perception of threat, manifested by an overall decrease in emotional responding suggesting that the participants were desensitized to threat over time. It is possible that decreased emotional responding due to desensitization can lead to maladaptive processes such as affective blunting, therefore it is important to examine this link between officer training and desensitization to threat.

Access Type

Open Access

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