Abstract Details

Exploring the Relationship Between Mindful Consciousness States, Unconscious Race-related Biases and Unjustified Deadly Force.  Richard Morley , Dr. Logan T. Trujillo, Dept. Of Psychology Texas State U (Texas State University, San Marcos, TX )   P1

Mindful conscious states are characterized by full attention to one's momentary internal and external environment without judgment. However, the degree to which trait mindfulness is reflected in overt behavior is still unknown. This topic is important because certain maladaptive behavioral tendencies may be reduced by increased mindfulness. This presentation reports a study of the impact of mindfulness on a key maladaptive behavior that has shown an increased prevalence in contemporary American society-the use of deadly force by law enforcement during active shooter scenarios [Morley, R. M. et al. (in press), Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology]. The improper use of deadly force has led to tensions between American communities and law enforcement, especially among African American communities where the risk of being shot by police is higher than the risk to their White counterparts. Exploring how trait mindfulness is related to decision making and bias could lead to the development of interventions that save lives and rebuild trust between police and the communities they serve. In the present study, the relationships between mindfulness, race, and the decision to use deadly force was investigated in college students participating in two distinct active shooter training simulations designed to provoke wrongful deadly force. In the first simulation, 79 students completed the Weapons Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the mindfulness non-reactivity subscale of the Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ); the latter was chosen because mindful non-reactivity has been shown to reduce stress and cognitive workload in unexpected situations. Participants then played the role of a police officer carrying a simulated firearm who, after hearing gunshots, confronted either a Black or White male in the role of an off-duty police officer holding a badge and a gun pointed at another role-player lying on the ground. Results revealed that non-reactivity significantly predicted not shooting the off-duty officer in a combined race analysis and a White officer only analysis. Moreover, when non-reactivity was included as a covariate, implicit bias predicted shooting the Black officer. In the second simulation, 42 college students completed the non-reactivity subscale of the FFMQ, before playing the role of a police officer in a situation where a Black or White male target had their backs turned to them. Upon turning around in response to the participant's instruction, the target held either a weapon or a cell phone; participants then either responded with simulated deadly force or not within a five second time limit. Results showed that when the target was holding a cellphone, the race of the target was not associated with the decision to shoot, and non-reactivity was negatively associated with shooting. Moreover, non-reactivity displayed a significant interaction with shooting and race. Non-reactivity scores were significantly lower among subjects that shot at the Black target. However, when the target was holding a weapon, subjects were less likely to shoot the White target and non-reactivity was not associated with shooting. The present findings suggest that mindful conscious states are associated with improved decision making during deadly force-related situations.