Police improve aim through Quiet Eye

By Josh Rose

Thanks to kinesiology researcher Joan Vickers from the University of Calgary and police psychologist Bill Lewinski, the Calgary Police Service’s police training program is now even more cutting edge. Vickers and Lewinski found that elite shooters in high-pressure life or death situations make the best decisions because of where they focus their eyes and attention.

Called the Quiet Eye, it is the exact spot where individuals fix their attention before making a critical move. It has been studied in hockey, biathlon, surgery and now police shooting.

In a study published in The Journal of Human Movement, Vickers compared the reactions of police rookies to those of veterans from large cities where SWAT officers are known for effectively dealing with violence. Researchers had a person move suddenly from behind a desk with either a gun or a cell phone and the officer had to decide whether to shoot. Sixty-five per cent of rookies shot the person when they held a cell phone compared to the 18 per cent of veterans. It was also discovered that the shooting accuracy for rookies was as low as 54 per cent compared to the veterans’ 75 per cent.

Using her eye-tracking technology, Vickers determined that the only difference between the decision-making ability and shooting accuracy of the rookies and veterans was not in their physical ability but in their focus on the target.

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