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Ergonomics. 2016 Jul;59(7):950-61. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2015.1107625. Epub 2015 Nov 19.

The impact of personality traits and professional experience on police officers' shooting performance under pressure.

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a Department of Human Movement Sciences , MOVE Research Institute Amsterdam, VU University , Amsterdam , The Netherlands.
b Behavioural Science Institute , Radboud University , Nijmegen , The Netherlands.


We explored the impact of professional experience and personality on police officers' shooting performance under pressure. We recruited: (1) regular officers, (2) officers wanting to join a specialised arrest unit (AU) (expected to possess more stress-resistant traits; pre-AU) and (3) officers from this unit (expected to also possess more professional experience; AU) (all male). In Phase 1, we determined personality traits and experience. In Phase 2, state anxiety, shot accuracy, decision-making (shoot/don't shoot), movement speed and gaze behaviour were measured while officers performed a shooting test under low and high pressure. Results indicate minimal differences in personality among groups and superior performance of AU officers. Regression analyses showed that state anxiety and shooting performance under high pressure were first predicted by AU experience and second by certain personality traits. Results suggest that although personality traits attenuate the impact of high pressure, it is relevant experience that secures effective performance under pressure. Practitioner Summary: To obtain information for police selection and training purposes, we let officers who differed in personality and experience execute a shooting test under low and high pressure. Outcomes indicate that experience affected anxiety and performance most strongly, while personality traits of thrill- and adventure-seeking and self-control also had an effect.


Anxiety; experience; perceptual-motor performance; personality; stress

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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