December 2, 2014

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Expect the Unexpected in Law Enforcement

 
Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. And Today’s Tip deals with our observation and perception.

“If we are paying very close attention to one thing, we often fail to notice other (even very obvious) things in our field of vision.”

Have you ever wondered how we could look directly at something without ever seeing it? Maybe it’s the sunglasses you’ve been looking for during the last fifteen minutes, later found on the top of your head; or your keys that are lying right on the kitchen counter, but in a spot you don’t normally place them.

Research psychologists Christopher Chabris and Dan Simons, in their book, “The Invisible Gorilla”, written after a research project of the same name, describe this phenomenon as ‘inattentional blindness’.

According to Chabris and Simon, “If we are paying very close attention to one thing, we often fail to notice other (even very obvious) things in our field of vision”. In the case of our sunglasses or keys, we’re paying very close attention to the fact that we can’t find that particular item. Add to that the fact that if we don’t expect to see something, particularly in a place we don’t expect them to be, we aren’t likely to see it.

In our everyday lives, this can be an annoyance. It is a bigger problem when we’re cruising down the highway, not expecting to see someone fail to yield to us at an intersection. It is particularly dangerous in law enforcement when we don’t expect to see a suspect hiding in a particular place; a gun tucked in a person’s waistband or a sudden assault launched during a traffic stop. If we’re paying close attention to one suspect, we may very well fail to see his accomplice, especially if we don’t expect there to be one. If we find one weapon, we may not expect there to be a second. It goes on and on…

Condition yourself to expect the unexpected. When the unexpected does come along, you’ll be better prepared to react effectively. 

And that is Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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