Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 209–214 | Cite as

Shoot/No-Shoot Decisions: Dissociation, Judgment, and Assailant/Weapon Characteristics

  • Schuyler W. Liao
  • Jana L. Price-Sharps
  • Matthew J. Sharps


Shoot/no-shoot decisions in law enforcement are under increasing scrutiny nationwide. However, little research has addressed the ways in which factors related to assailants and weapons influence these decisions. In the present research, images of adult male, adult female, and juvenile (female) assailants presented simulated direct threats to respondents. Assailants were armed with a pistol, a knife, or a glass bottle. Respondents were asked to indicate whether or not they would shoot in the presence of these threats. Respondents also completed the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES). Tendencies toward dissociation, a process generating a sense of unreality, influenced the performance of males who shot; more dissociated men took more time to fire. However, dissociation did not influence the performance of women. Sex and youth of the assailant had no effects on the shoot/no-shoot performance of either men or women, and oddly, weapon type had no significant effect on women’s performance, although men were more likely to fire on an assailant of either age or sex armed with a gun or knife than a bottle. These results are discussed in terms of relevance for law enforcement training and for juridical proceedings in shoot/no-shoot cases.


Shoot/no-shoot decisions Tactical decisions Analogue/appraisal theory Dissociation 



The authors would like to acknowledge that this research was conducted in laboratory facilities directed by the third author at the California State University, Fresno, and was also conducted under normal research auspices for faculty of that institution.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This project received full ethical approval from the Human Subjects Committee, Department of Psychology, College of Science and Mathematics, California State University, Fresno. The project was approved as a “minimal risk” procedure for human subjects.

Informed Consent

All human subjects of this research were provided with full informed consent according to the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association, standard for this field. All were adults, and all indicated that they had fully read the Informed Consent form and the research descriptions contained therein, and signed the form to give their consent to participation in the research.


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Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Schuyler W. Liao
    • 1
  • Jana L. Price-Sharps
    • 2
    • 3
  • Matthew J. Sharps
    • 3
  1. 1.California Department of Corrections and RehabilitationSacramentoUSA
  2. 2.Walden UniversityMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.California State University, FresnoFresnoUSA

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