Marek Novy, from the Department of Psychiatry, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, published the article titled COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS DURING LAW
ENFORCEMENT SHOOTING in 2012, at the Activitas Nervosa Superior as a small review of the theme.
Cognitive distortions, a term introduced by Beck (1976, 1985), refer to patterns of biased information processing associated with negative emotions. Meanwhile, perceptual distortion is mainly used to describe phenomena observed during extreme stress, highlighting a mismatch between how a stimulus is commonly perceived and how an individual perceives it under specific conditions (Hancock, Szalma & Weaver, 2002; Hancock & Weaver, 2005). The study of cognitive distortions in law enforcement shootings is a valuable research field that sheds light on the fundamental mechanisms influenced by stress and offers applications in prevention and clinical practice.
In this article, the author analyzed nine systematic studies that have explored the responses of law enforcement officers during shooting incidents. These studies reveal that the majority of officers experience specific perceptual distortions in critical situations, with visual and auditory distortions being the most common. Tunnel vision, a visual distortion, was reported in about half of the cases, while an altered subjective perception of time was found consistently across all studies. Distorted memory and dissociation were also observed but varied in prevalence between studies. The research methodology employed in these studies was generally similar, with most using mailed surveys or questionnaires. However, the sample sizes in these studies were often relatively small, typically consisting of up to a hundred subjects. It’s important to note that these published studies are primarily descriptive and lack a strong theoretical background. Some other studies have explored dissociation during critical law enforcement incidents.
Novy, M. Cognitive Distortions During Law Enforcement Shooting. Act Nerv Super 54, 60–66 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03379584