Shooting a firearm involves a complex series of cognitive abilities. For example, locating an item or a person of interest requires visual search, and firing the weapon (or withholding a trigger squeeze) involves response execution (or inhibition). The present study used a simulated shooting environment to establish a relationship between a particular cognitive ability and a critical shooting error—response inhibition and firing on civilians, respectively. Individual-difference measures demonstrated, perhaps counterintuitively, that simulated civilian casualties were not related to motor impulsivity (i.e., an itchy trigger finger) but rather to an individual’s cognitive ability to withhold an already initiated response (i.e., an itchy brain). Furthermore, active-response-inhibition training reduced simulated civilian casualties, which revealed a causal relationship. This study therefore illustrates the potential of using cognitive training to possibly improve shooting performance, which might ultimately provide insight for military and law-enforcement personnel.
Source: Association for Psychological Science