Mario Staller and Jon C. Cole 2016b

Mario S. Staller & Jon C. Cole

The simulated armed confrontation: A novel paradigm for studying the neuropsychology of human defensive behaviour

The simulated armed confrontation paradigm potentially provides a novel method to ethically investigate the neuropsychology of violent confrontations. Given the acknowledged problems with existing laboratory paradigms this may represent a significant step forward. In the current study we investigated the effects of a simulated armed confrontation on executive cognitive functioning in police officers.

For this purpose, 68 violence-experienced participants (police officers and martial artists) were exposed either to a simulated armed confrontation, that required the establishment of dominance over an aggressor or a control treatment, where participants were required to exercise for five minutes. Phonemic fluency was measured before and after the treatment along with physiological measures.

Results for both treatments revealed an increase in executive cognitive functioning, whilst non-executive functioning was not affected. The current results are inconsistent with previous research looking at aggression and violent behaviour in the normal population where executive dysfunction is considered an aetiological factor. These results indicate that executive cognitive functioning is enhanced in simulated armed confrontations, suggesting that it is an adaptive human defensive response due to the increase in cardiovascular functioning.



Mario Staller is a German police officer working more than ten years as a police use of force, self-defense, and firearms instructor. His main areas of research are psychological aspects of conflict management in police contexts, skill development and pedagogical practice in police use of force and self-defense training.

Professor Jon Cole is the academic group lead of the tactical decision making research group af the University of Liverpool. His main areas of interests are conflict psychology, temporal psychology, decision making, and prevention science.