New Findings Expand Understanding of Tunnel Vision, Auditory Blocking, & Lag Time

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Brain researchers at Johns Hopkins University have shed new light on the auditory blocking and tunnel vision officers often experienced during deadly encounters, while researchers at the University of Utah have surfaced new information related to lag time.

In both cases, the findings will help advance studies at the Force Science Research Center regarding officer behavior during shootings.

The Hopkins study, led by Dr. Steven Yantis, a professor in the Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences, tracked how the human brain handles competing demands for attention.

In a neuroimaging lab, adults ranging in age from 19 to 35 were asked to view a rapidly changing computer display of multiple numbers and letters while listening through headsets to 3 voices simultaneously speaking numbers and letters. This was intended to simulate “the cluttered visual and auditory input people deal with every day.” Using sophisticated imaging equipment, Yantis and his team recorded the subjects’ brain activity.

They found that when the subjects directed their attention to visual tasks (“tunneling in” on the computer screen), the parts of the brain that record auditory stimuli registered decreased activity. By the same token, when they focused on listening to spoken messages, brain areas that respond to visual images showed diminished activity.

In effect, when a subject concentrated on one source of sensory input–looking at something, in this case–that essentially “turned down the volume” on the part of the brain that monitors hearing. And vice versa. As Yantis puts it:

“When attention is deployed to one modality, it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality. The brain can’t simultaneously give full attention to both.”

Yantis uses this finding, reported in last November’s issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, to explain why cell phone conversations diminish a driver’s visual acuity for what’s happening on the road. But Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, sees important law enforcement implications.

“This explains why officers defending themselves in a shooting may not hear things accurately–or at all,” he told Force Science News. “Their intense focus on a powerful visual stimulus–a threat to their life–causes their brain’s hearing receptors to shut down.

“We’ve known for a long time that shooting survivors often don’t hear their rounds going off, can’t remember hearing their partner screaming in their ear, may have perceived their gunshots as puny pops and so on–many sound distortions or omissions. Now we know why this so-called auditory blocking takes place.

“Likewise, we understand why they may not see something within their field of vision–where their partner was standing, where civilians were–when they are focused on listening to audible stimuli. And we know that these phenomena are real, an unavoidable part of the human condition, not just something cops imagine.”

In a web-posted video explaining his experiments, Yantis references work at the University of Utah that, like his study, would seem to most civilians to have primarily road safety implications.

(The video can be accessed at:

www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/audio-video/brain.html.

You can click on the photo of Professor Yantis to launch the video or click the link at the end of the printed news release.)

At Utah, researchers monitored subjects talking on a cell phone while “operating” a visual driving simulator. This study measured reaction time and found, for example, that a driver’s reaction to the brake lights of a car ahead is “significantly slower” if he or she is engaged in a phone conversation.

Lewinski believes this finding, too, “has important law enforcement implications, concerning the impact of distraction. In this case, if you are listening to something (a cell phone conversation) it will delay your reaction to something that occurs in your visual field.”

But distractions within a particular sensory realm–within your visual field, say–will produce delays, too, he points out. “If you are focused on watching one thing you won’t detect changes as rapidly in the other parts of your visual field that you aren’t concentrating on.

“For example, if you are intently watching a suspect’s right hand because you think he might produce a weapon there and instead he comes up with a weapon in his left hand, your reaction time will be significantly impaired.”

In the practical world of the street and in court the ramifications of these perceptual studies are “profound and wide ranging,” Lewinski stresses.

They show, for instance, how “dealing with multiple suspects in a high-stress encounter presents an extreme challenge to you as an officer. Not only will you be able primarily to see only what you are focused on at any given moment but your own brain may sabotage or delay your ability to perceive and react to threats outside your immediate focus. If you’re not anticipating a threat from beyond your point of concentration, you can be caught flat-footed and be way behind the reactionary curve when a threat is presented.”

Moreover, you may be held to unrealistic standards in court or during departmental investigations after a major use of force if the persons probing or judging your actions don’t understand the psychological influences involved. “People questioning you are seriously deluding themselves if they think you can perceive, pay attention to, react to and remember everything with clarity and precision, even if it happened directly in front of you,” Lewinski says.

“The reality is that most of us are pretty poor-in fact, incapable-of perceiving and recording everything that occurs to us at any particular moment. Not perceiving the totality of an event is how we normally operate. Even in non-stress situations, not to mention a life-threatening confrontation, once we focus on anything, even if it’s a thought in our own head, we significantly compromise our ability to perceive and remember what else is occurring around and to us.

“The uninformed person will wonder why in a lethal situation you can’t remember how you moved or shot or how many rounds you fired or the movement of the very person you are shooting at to save your life.

“The bottom line of Dr. Yantis’ work is that the brain has limited capacity for paying attention and recording what it perceives. It shifts among competing stimuli to accommodate what seems most important, and blocks out the rest.

“In reality, you may be capable only of vague generalizations after an experience like a shooting. Those investigating or judging you need to realize you are not feigning lack of memory. Details that were not important to your survival during the microseconds of a shooting may not have been recorded. You will simply remember what you were focused on at the time, not what someone who was not there at the moment of crisis may think later is important.”

Part of FSRC’s mission is to research how officers can cope with the phenomena revealed in the university studies cited above. A number of experiments are underway or planned at the Center to explore perception and reaction time in complex new ways, Lewinski says, and these latest studies will assist in that research. “Later,” he says, “we will investigate how training can best be designed to help officers better overcome the challenges they face.”

For a more complete discussion of the recent university studies and their implications for law enforcement, go to:

http://www.forcesciencenews.com/visuals/newdev.pdf

There you’ll find a special report Lewinski has prepared, including a detailed examination of one reaction-time challenge in particular, the time it takes officers to respond to a change in circumstances and stop shooting at a previously perceived threat.

GDPR

  • Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Effective date: January 06, 2019

Force Science Institute, Ltd. (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://www.forcescience.org/ website (hereinafter referred to as the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data. Our Privacy Policy for Force Science Institute, Ltd. is based on the Privacy Policy Template from Privacy Policies.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from https://www.forcescience.org/

Information Collection And Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

  • Email address
  • First name and last name
  • Phone number
  • Address, State, Province, ZIP/Postal code, City
  • Cookies and Usage Data

Usage Data

We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and hold certain information.

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies also used are beacons, tags, and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service. You can learn more how to manage cookies in the Browser Cookies Guide.

Examples of Cookies we use:

  • Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our Service.
  • Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.
  • Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Use of Data

Force Science Institute, Ltd. uses the collected data for various purposes:

  • To provide and maintain the Service
  • To notify you about changes to our Service
  • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our Service when you choose to do so
  • To provide customer care and support
  • To provide analysis or valuable information so that we can improve the Service
  • To monitor the usage of the Service
  • To detect, prevent and address technical issues

Transfer Of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Force Science Institute, Ltd. will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure Of Data

Legal Requirements

Force Science Institute, Ltd. may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • To comply with a legal obligation
  • To protect and defend the rights or property of Force Science Institute, Ltd.
  • To prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • To protect the personal safety of users of the Service or the public
  • To protect against legal liability

Security Of Data

The security of your data is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.

Analytics

We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our Service.

  • Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page: https://policies.google.com/privacy?hl=en

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: [email protected]
  • By visiting this page on our website: https://www.forcescience.org/contact
  • By phone number: 866-683-1944
  • By mail: Force Science Institute, Ltd.