Investigating the cognitive mechanisms underlying shooter biases against minorities

Mentor: Dr. Cendri Hutcherson

Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair in Decision Neuroscience

Dr. Cendri Hutcherson

Project Description

This 8-week project attempts to examine recent controversial decisions by police officers to shoot unarmed minorities, using a cognitive and decision making perspective. Previous research in my lab found that time pressure can change the way that people attend to specific information, and that this attention can then bias people to choose in different ways under time pressure than they would when given more time. In this project, we hypothesize that similar mechanisms may underlie choices to respond with preemptive violence when faced with the possible threat of aggression by a minority vs. majority race individual. We intend to approach this question using a combination of behavioral studies and analysis of publicly available databases of gun violence. For behavioral studies, this will involve the design and implementation of a stylized decision making paradigm involving decisions to “shoot” or approach members of social groups with different characteristics, in order to test specific hypotheses about the factors that influence the tendency for shooting biases emerge. For analysis of publicly available data, this may involve data cleaning and preparation, as well as supervision in performing statistical analyses. As an SROP Student in this lab, you would receive training in computer programming of experiments, fundamental principles of decision making, statistical analysis and computational modeling. My hope is that the knowledge gained from this research will aid in understanding some of the drivers of racially biased behavior in real-world settings, as well as present novel solutions to these issues.

Mentorship Statement

My mentorship philosophy involves working with a student to identify their goals in both the short and long term, and then devising an approach that allows them to make progress on those goals. This means that how I work with each student may be different, depending on their goals. I provide mentorship in three ways: through regularly-scheduled one-on-one meetings, through weekly group meetings, and through a set of lab training materials that allow self-motivated students to learn key skills at their own pace. One of the most rewarding experiences is to see another person making discoveries and learning new skills. As well, I often find that I learn things best when teaching and mentoring others. The Canada SROP thus provides an amazing opportunity not only for you to learn about research, but also for me to learn about the best ways to think about research, scholarship and learning.

Project ID 475