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Alternative Title

Using an escalation of commitment framework to investigate shooting decisions

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Shooting-Decision making, Discrimination, Decision making, Police psychology, Social psychology, Racism, Shooter bias, Escalation of commitment, Implicit bias, Weapons bias, Police violence, Policing


This study introduces escalation of commitment as a potential explanatory framework for police shooter bias outcomes. In a 2 X 2 experiment incorporating elements of Correll et al (2002), participants were asked to role-play police officers in scenarios where they encountered Black or White targets, were given choices to interact with, and pursue, targets, and ultimately, to stand suddenly face-to-face with the target (who was holding a cell phone or wallet) and make a split-second decision to “shoot” or “duck for cover.” Shooting outcomes within this study did not reveal the typical shooter bias. An effect for race was present but in the opposite direction compared to classic shooter bias findings: White targets were more likely to be shot than Black targets. However, many participants chose not to pursue targets and of those that did, chose to duck for cover far more frequently than to shoot. These atypical findings may arise as a consequence of scenario instructions emphasizing community safety.




45 pages : color illustrations. Honors project, Smith College, 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 37-40)