Police Psychology: Can We Sense Danger?

Posted: March 15, 2017 in Motives and Opportunity
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Police Psychology:  Can We Sense Danger?

Gary S. Aumiller Ph.D.  ABPP


I was working with my daughter on a science fair project for fourth grade.  She laid out five different colored pieces of paper and put a treat on each, then separately let go of our cat and dog and recorded which color they went to eat.

Human vs. Dog sight

She did that five times to see if our pets had a color preference.  In doing the research for the project, we came across pictures of what a dog sees and what a cat sees.  The dog, of course could only see the color green and some shades of blue, and the cat saw at night, but  the pictures were very blurry.  My 10-year old daughter said “wow my Fluffy and Pinwheel really can’t see me, I wonder what we can’t see.”

She might has well turned on the start switch for some crazy Rube Goldberg machine that goes through 1879 mechanical stages to pour a cup of coffee.  I was obsessing about that statement for days.  What is it that we cannot see?  Perhaps we can’t see ghosts or floating spirits.  Perhaps not auras around someone’s head or the body radiating sexual interest.  There are certainly people who think they see those things and talk to ghosts, but are they just charlatans looking to catch us in a moment of wanting to believe anything?  What is just below our perception level, and what is way below our ability to perceive?

Gift of Fear

In a landmark book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker said that fear was a gift and that we intuitively know when we are in danger or that something bad is going to happen to us.  He presented that there were all kinds of cues that we don’t openly perceive that tell us we were in trouble and many times we ignore these cues.  He told the story of a woman who noticed a man walking up in her rear-view mirror and ignored it right before she was accosted.  He said if we could somehow make ourselves tune into the cues telling us we are in danger, we would be safer, and that is a gift, thus the title.  He went on to talk about intuition being a series of cues that we don’t necessarily perceive.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about “thin-slicing” in Blink, a book about the intuitive parts of decisions making.  He said there can be “as much value in the blink of an eye than in months of rational analysis.”  He encourages people to not push aside their first thought in favor of getting more information in making a decision.  Some people do seem more intuitive and it doesn’t necessarily go with intelligence or access to more information.  What is it that these people are seeing that perhaps others can’t see?  Or is it a vision question at all.  Maybe one of the other senses is more active.

Spot Diagnosis

My partner and I can walk in our waiting room and do a flash diagnosis on a person without meeting them and we are 90% correct.  In fact, it is so uncanny, sometimes we tell the other person about their patient they have seen for months and when they look into it it is true.  We can tell anxiety, depression, chronic pain, a personality disorder, a critical incident PTSD, even brain damage in a matter of seconds.  It is said some psychologists develop a third eye or a sixth sense for people because we live through so many lives at once.

I’ve noticed a lot of anxiety cases I have get more anxious when the weather changes.  When there is days of nice weather and all of a sudden a major storm is coming to town I see the difference in them.  Cops are always saying that they know they will be busy when they come in and there is a full moon outside.  More babies are born during a full moon.  High tides affect that also.  There are more psychiatric hospital admissions in nights after a full moon.  I’ll go one further, you ever had a big event coming tomorrow and you are really anxious about it, and then your computer fails, or some other electrical thing goes down.  I have even seen when a person is upset that balloons in the house tend to follow that person around.  Is there something there that we are not really seeing?  We can record it or at least what it affects, but damn if we can see it.

There’s a lot we don’t see, runs of bad luck, runs of good luck, times where everything goes right and everything goes wrong all at once.  Single people always say when you have a girlfriend or boyfriend there are tons of other people you want to date, when you are alone there are none.  Sometimes that is just random events, sometimes it happens together for a reason, although we don’t see the reason, it’s there.  As humans, we have this stupid believe that we know the whole world and why things happen.  We believe things generally have a singular cause.  Not so on all accounts.  Not only do things have multiple causes (as I’ve mentioned before), but we can’t explain a lot of our world.  Remember only 5-10% of the oceans life has been seen, and that’s tangible.  We’ve got a long way to go with spirits and auras and fear and tons of other topics.

So Skylar placed in the Science Fair and got a ribbon which is really good for a kid that struggles.  It seems all the parents and teachers were blown away by the pictures of what a dog and cat can see.  By the way, bulls don’t see red either, only faded shades of green and blue, so the red cape is “fake news” (to use the modern term).  To go one better, we all have different levels of the receptors in our eyes, so your red is probably going to totally different from the red I see.  If only everyone could use that measure to be more accepting of others (and others’ politics also) the world would be a better place!


Site Administrator:  Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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