Police Psychology | Stress Inoculation: Not Just for Gunfights
by Patricia A. Robinson, Ph.D.
If you Google “police stress inoculation shooting,” you’ll get about 300,000 results, with titles like “Why your firearms training MUST include stress inoculation drills.” Acute stress induces the so-called “fight or flight” response, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system to prepare you to deal with the proverbial saber-tooth tiger about to pounce or the drug dealer drawing a pistol. Without getting into the physiological weeds, we are familiar with the effects of the acute stress response: pounding heart and rising blood pressure, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor control, auditory exclusion, and so on. If you’re not prepared, these responses can wreak havoc with your shooting skills.
Trainers introduce artificial stress (e.g. time pressure, shoot/don’t shoot decisions, scenarios) in firearms training to ensure that when the real thing happens, an officer will still be able to perform, even under acute stress. The middle of a gunfight is a bad time to be trying to think through step-by-step how to draw and fire your weapon or what to do when a malfunction occurs—your responses must be automatic. With acute stress, when the gunfight is over (or the saber-tooth tiger has decided on a different entrée), our bodies return to normal. (more…)