Hattip to Isegoria
A Force Science article analyzes where officers eyes were focused in a tense scenario.
In a recent study, Bill Lewinski and Joan Vickers examined how elite and rookie police officers reacted — and where they were looking — during a simulated conflict:
“In short, an officer’s performance can be impaired or enhanced by where his eyes and attention are focused in the midst of a deadly encounter.”
The researchers found that just before firing in an armed confrontation rookies tended to look away from their target and search for their sights for reassurance of their aim, thereby, in Lewinski’s words, “pulling themselves out of the gunfight at a critical moment and negatively affecting their accuracy, their speed of response, and their awareness of what the suspect was doing.”
Most of the highly experienced officers in the study, in contrast, concentrated their visual focus on the target/suspect, catching only a fast glimpse of their sights in their peripheral vision and relying primarily on “an unconscious kinesthetic sense to know that their gun is up and positioned properly.”
In order to maintain their gaze the officers relied on the peripheral vision, interestingly, they relied on peripheral vision to look at their sights – opposite of conventional training for pistol shooting. The goal of training should be the following:
“Through innumerable repetitions they have developed a highly accurate feel—a strong kinesthetic sense—for raising their gun to a proper alignment without consciously thinking about it or making a pronounced visual or attentional shift to it. If you ran a laser beam from their eye to the target, it would shine right through their sights.
“Careful sight alignment was an important step in starting them toward that point of excellence. Experience and intensive training are ultimately what brought them there. Over a long time, they were able to transition from one emphasis to another. Yet even at their exceptional performance level, referencing the sights in some manner, however fleetingly or peripherally, was still part of their response in the type of rapidly unfolding encounter designed for this study.”