Identifying psychophysiological indices of expert vs. novice performance in deadly force judgment and decision making

Johnson RR, Stone BT, Miranda CM, et al. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2014;8:512.

Objective: To demonstrate that psychophysiology may have applications for objective assessment of expertise development in deadly force judgment and decision making (DFJDM).

Background: Modern training techniques focus on improving decision-making skills with participative assessment between trainees and subject matter experts primarily through subjective observation. Objective metrics need to be developed. The current proof of concept study explored the potential for psychophysiological metrics in deadly force judgment contexts.

Method: Twenty-four participants (novice, expert) were recruited. All wore a B-Alert wireless Electroencephalography (EEG) device to collect psychophysiological data during high-fidelity simulated deadly force judgment and decision-making simulations using a modified Glock firearm. Participants were exposed to 27 video scenarios, one-third of which would have justified use of deadly force. Pass/fail was determined by whether the participant used deadly force appropriately.

Results: Experts had a significantly higher pass rate compared to novices (p < 0.05). Multiple metrics were shown to distinguish novices from experts. Hierarchical regression analyses indicate that psychophysiological variables are able to explain 72% of the variability in expert performance, but only 37% in novices. Discriminant function analysis (DFA) using psychophysiological metrics was able to discern between experts and novices with 72.6% accuracy.

Conclusion: While limited due to small sample size, the results suggest that psychophysiology may be developed for use as an objective measure of expertise in DFDJM. Specifically, discriminant function measures may have the potential to objectively identify expert skill acquisition.

Application: Psychophysiological metrics may create a performance model with the potential to optimize simulator-based DFJDM training. These performance models could be used for trainee feedback, and/or by the instructor to assess performance objectively.

For related research that the B-Alert wireless EEG systems have enabled, you can visit the Accelerated Learning application page.