Police with weak working memory are more likely to shoot an unarmed person

Posted: September 15, 2009

We usually don’t think of the ability to multitask as a matter of life and death, but according to a recent study from Georgia State, it appears that could be the case.

The research, published in the April 2009 edition of Applied Cognitive Psychology, used simulated exercises to show that police officers with high working memory capacity are better able to keep their wits about them and make objective decisions in emotionally stressful situations. On the other hand, those with poorer working memory effectively exhaust their working memory capacity trying to manage their stress and have little left for the decision at hand. Unfortunately, when that decision involves shooting another person, officers with low working memory are at a distinct disadvantage.

The key takeaway here is that working memory is a very real indicator of how people will perform in certain situations, endeavors and professions. I think we have an obligation to begin evaluating working memory to ensure each individual is prepared for success – especially in cases where lives may be at stake.

Here is a link to the story: