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Rapid Cognition/Thin Slicing and S&T

Discussion in 'Strategies, Tactics and Training' started by psyopspec, Apr 23, 2009.

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  1. psyopspec

    psyopspec Member

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    I recently finished reading a book called Blink by Malcom Gladwell. It explores several ideas behind rapid cognition (or "thin slicing" in Psychology), which is the idea that the human brain can take in a person, situation, song, or THR post and arrive at a set of conclusions about it in approximately two seconds. These conclusions can be right or wrong, and for most people in most cases go unrecognized by the conscious mind; when it's working right though, you might know what's going to happen in the next couple seconds, but you don't know how you know. The book is largely focused on medical and LE events, to include conditioning against the effects of adrenaline dump, and the author interviews Col. Grossman among others for those who may be interested.

    While most people never notice or think about the idea of rapid cognition, and some get to the point of knowing but not being able to discern how, for people who have more experience and repetition observing and reacting to a series of similar situations, they can often, over time, identify specific signs of impending behavior. From my own personal experience, I recall walking back from lunch with a 15-year state highway LEO in NC a few years ago. A car was fast approaching an intersection where the crossroads were largely shrouded by trees. The car, a late model Mustang, was going to blow his stop sign. About 1.5 seconds before he got T-Boned, the LEO I was with looked up. "MVC!" The acronym (motor vehicle collision), no sooner escaped his lips than we heard the crunch. While we could tell the car was going to run a stop sign, we couldn't see if there was cross traffic due to vegetation lining the road. No one was injured, and when the local authorities showed up, we walked on.

    The first time I asked him how he knew that, he looked at me and said that he just knew. After asking him to think about it, he zeroed in on what he'd noticed: The head of the driver snapped to the right 1-2 seconds before the collision for a cursory check and it never snapped back to front. Additionally, the driver of the offending car, out of a natural reaction pulled the wheel slightly away from the oncoming car. Keep in mind we were almost a block away, and that the car was going about 40 mph. My friend took less than a half second to see this, process it, and verbalize it.

    Another example, from the book: A young hoodlum in a major city is running from the cops on foot. He jumps a fence in time to see a cruiser pulling up and two cops getting out. The youth hits the ground, landing on his feet. At the same time, the cops are clearing the doors of their vehicles. The officers see him start reaching for the crotch area of his pants, "as if he was trying to grab something that was falling down his pant leg." The officer interviewed for the book says at this point he starting issuing commands, telling the suspect to stop and telling him not to move. "As I was giving commands, I drew my revolver. When I got about five feet from the guy, he came up with a chrome .25 auto. Then, as soon as his hand reached his center stomach area, he dropped the gun right on the sidewalk." The suspect was taken into custody without incident.

    Asked why he didn't fire on the suspect, the officer said
    For the purposes of this thread, let's leave out whether you the audience think he should have shot; from the situation described, there's little doubt he would have been in the right. Instead, I want to focus on how he read and reacted to the situation in a second or two, and ultimately came to the conclusion he did.

    Again, we're talking about something that took place in maybe 2-3 seconds. My question is this: For those of you who've been in positions where you participated or observed an impending violent encounter, do you recall any of the signs that allowed you to see it coming just before or just as it was starting? I ask with the idea that sharing these experiences might help someone else in the future, and with the idea that if you can't avoid a dangerous situation, a second or two of warning can easily become the defining line between safe/injured or alive/dead. It could even be something minor; a friend of mine with a somewhat shady past always said "if you see a man in public who looks like he's about to cry, something's about to go down."
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2009
  2. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

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    ""if you see a man in public who looks like he's about to cry, something's about to go down."


    Oh yes...or theres a muted, restrained vividness, a flushing, which looks similar to about-to-cry, which can be a rally, an interior rally, a nearing 'launch', when someone is nearing a decision-moment to act dramatically...and who has the energy and will for good follow-through.


    Good mentions...


    "Yes"...if I replay situations where something went down, where I was there, or part of it, if re-playing the experience, decisions, evaluations, presience, 'knowing', can be very fast, very fast...and, very right on.

    You 'know' details about what is about what is happening, and what is about to happen...and...it happens...and your actions defer to the seen-in-advance or seen-as-it-is details of what you see coming...it's all-at-once...you already know the outcome, and how it gets there.



    I would also be reluctant to fire precipitously on a young person brandishing a .25 Auto at five, ten or more feet.

    I am not afraid of a .25, and I'd give them some chance to disengauge or drop it, definitely.

    If they fired, I recon I would also, but it'd depend on if I had a way out or could rush, grab or punch them...but by golly, they'd have to be mighty foolish to do it...and I would not feel it'd been at all a fair fight if I nailed them with return fire...I would not feel good about it.


    An ( unknown to me ) adult brandishing a .25 at me, be a case-by-case sort of thing...as for how much way out I'd allow them...and or how much way out I had...and or if they were solo or had ohers along.


    Every situation is different...Lord knows...
     
  3. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't have any idea how long this encounter took. But several years ago I was starting my shift and taking the day shift officer I had relieved home. We got about a block from the station when the radio went off with; "Units just received a complaint from the manager at Pizza Hut of a group of juveniles he'd like checked out. There are four Asian juveniles who came in and ordered a personal pan pizza and a pitcher of Pepsi. The manager reports they are acting funny and they drove up in a car that has Michigan plates on the front and Wisconsin plates on the back."

    The three of us working the 4-midnight shift acknowledged the call and I said I'd head that way after I dropped the day shift officer at home. Didn't have time to drive another block when this came over the radio: "Units, I have the Pizza Hut manager on 911 and he reports the juveniles have jumped up and are trying to pry the coin boxes out of the video game machines with crowbars."

    All of the units immediately headed that way.

    Now the manager of Pizza Hut was very successful in knowing what was about to happen. He said it was their mannerisms that set off his internal alarms, the first clue was that they only ordered enough food for one person and then after that they were very fidgety and very animated in their interaction with each other, he said he could feel their energy.

    The day shift officer and myself and one of the other 4-12 officers arrived at the same time. The building was of the old Pizza Hut design with the entrance on one side and the game area next to the counter near the restrooms right next to the emergency exit.

    We pulled around next to the main entrance just as the juveniles ran out the emergency entrance. The first one came around the corner of the building and the first thing he saw was me. His hand went into his waist band under the Navy peacoat he was wearing and I drew my weapon. There was no hesitation, as soon as he was looking down the barrel of my weapon, he withdrew his hand. It all happened so fast that I was into my trigger press when he pulled his hand out. I would have been justified in shooting him, but the tough look on his face turned to fear instantly. I guess that's what slowed me down, I never really thought about it till I read the first post in this thread.

    He had a screwdriver about 10 inches long in his waist band. I was feeling really bad about almost shooting a kid (he was 14 and of Laotian descent and looked about 10) but after we searched their car we found photos of them with their weapons and flashing gang sign. According to the gang officer from Lacrosse WI where they were from, they were undergoing an initiation where they to make a drug delivery to Atlanta and return. The initiation part was that they were given no expense money and they were expected to make their own way to Atlanta and back. They were responsible for a string of drive offs from gas stations and similar robberies like they tried where I was working up and down the interstate. They had $1700 in cash in the car, but that was the money for the drugs they delivered in Atlanta and wasn't to be touched.

    So there were two times in that one incident where two different people picked up on things and reacted.
     
  4. heron

    heron Member

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    You should be. ALL firearms are lethal by design.
     
  5. conw

    conw Member

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    :scrutiny:
    :uhoh:
    :rolleyes:
     
  6. Kentucky Kernel

    Kentucky Kernel Member

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    A fantastic post! I truly admire the scholarly thoughts behind the comments and question.

    It seems to me that one needs to be keenly observant in order to be rapidly cognizant of impending trouble. Such situational awareness can’t be learned in a class nor from a book, but from life’s experiences and training, I suspect.

    The only experience I have had was grabbing a young kid, probably 3-4, just before he dashed into a busy downtown street in Cincinnati years ago. Busy sidewalk, harried mom with stroller/baby, plus the youngster. The kid pulled away from his mom, was pulled back by mom; then I noticed two things at the same time: mom was distracted by baby in stroller, and kid looking across the street at a window display or something. My mind said "he's gonna bolt" and I just grabbed the kid about a second after he broke free and was right at the curb. Mom just sorta look at me, and they continued on their way. The entire event was 10 seconds, maybe.

    KK
     
  7. Rellian

    Rellian Member

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    True.
    We sometimes forget in our discussions of caliber and feature that it is not the quality of the gun to be feared as much as the skill of the shooter.
     
  8. Stirling XD

    Stirling XD Member

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    psyopspec,
    Thanks for the information about Blink. It sounds interesting. You might also enjoy The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I read it a few years back and really got a lot out of it. He talks about a lot of the signals we pick up on that tells that something is wrong that we often can't explain ourselves. He also discusses threat assessment and response. He doesn't get into defense with firearms. In fact, I've been told he's an anti. But it's still a good read.
     
  9. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

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    de Becker is definitely anti (stemming from some experiences as a child that he generalizes to gun ownership in general), but his observations on situational awareness and cognition are sound. His observations are useful not only in "tactical" situations, but also in recognizing and resisting verbal or situational manipulation by others.
     
  10. johncantiusgarand

    johncantiusgarand Member

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    I've been wondering for a long time exactly what it was that stayed my trigger finger on a call years ago.

    I responded to a neighborhood one night with another officer on a complaint of someone outside shooting. We arrived at the caller's home and heard someone talking loudly nearby. We followed the voice to the rear of a newly-constructed vacant house next door. A man, obviously intoxicated from the sound of his slurred speech, was sitting on the steps of the deck, talking to someone on his cell phone.

    We illuminated him with our flashlights and identified ourselves as police. Our flashlight beams fell across a medium-sized handgun on the step at his feet, and we ordered him to raise his hands. He responded, "police?" "what the f***?" Then, instead of raising his hands, he reached down and picked up the handgun. I don't remember if we'd already drawn our weapons by then, or if that precipitated the draw, but we both had our pistols pointed at him and were yelling for him to "drop the gun!" Instead, he tossed us his pistol by swinging it in our direction and releasing it just as the muzzle was lining up on us.

    Neither of us fired. I "knew" he wasn't going to shoot, and I even remember a worry that flashed across my mind that the other officer might shoot him. When I discussed it with the other officer later, he'd had the same concern. Both of us "knew" that the guy wasn't going to try to shoot us, but neither of us could say exactly how we knew that. And as it turned out, the complainant was the guy's wife. The two had gotten into an argument and he, to emphasize a point, had walked outside with his pistol and shot it into the air. He then went to the deck next door and called his sister to calm down. His wife had telephoned 911--not because she was afraid OF him, but because she was afraid FOR him. She and their daughter were watching our confrontation with him from an upstairs window.

    So I've always been grateful for whatever it was that told both of us not to fire, but I've always wondered exactly what it was that we perceived.
     
  11. TravisB

    TravisB Member

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    Not afraid of a .25 at five feet? I think there'd be enough energy at that range to do some damage.

    And, yeah, Blink is a good book. It doesn't quite explain how gut-level intuition derived from years of training and experience works (I don't think anyone fully grasps this yet), but it certainly demonstrates that this sort of informed intuition does work. Some people get so good at what they do that they don't even know how they know things, like the art expert who identified a very good forgery in seconds. She was right, but she could only guess at how she knew.

    I feel sorry for cops who go up for review and can't explain what was nonetheless a good decision, because they relied on instinct rather than a slow, logical checklist process.
     
  12. Rob Pincus

    Rob Pincus Member

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    Guys, there is a lot of good stuff going on in the world of Neuro-science which is basically confirming things we have been observing and preaching or pointing us in new and better directions.
    The issues raised by (the very liberal) Gladwell are based on hard science, though he skews some issues pretty well. I actually did reference the book in the first edition of Combat Focus Shooting, but since that time I have gotten deeper into the topic and found better resources. There is a book titled "Gut Feelings" that is written by the guy (Gerd Girzenger (sp?))who has done much of the work that Gladwell used to form the basis of Blink. I definitely recommend it to those interested.

    deBecker is a liberal anti as well, but the premise of his "Gift of Fear" is spot on... and he was ahead of the popular curve initiated by Gladwell.

    There is a section on Pre Cognitive Decision making in CFS and I reference it heavily in the latest writings on Warrior Expert Theory. There is no doubt that the brain is reacting to stimuli faster than we can perceive it. The upshot is that reactions (instinct) and even responses (learned behaviors) can and do go into action without an articulable reason in many cases. This is consistent with witness testimony (I did it "automatically") and supposed 6th Sense events (..."I just turned around at the right time and saw a guy sneaking up on me."). Travisb, the "how" is largely explained by a process of learning that I paraphrase in the book from Dr. D. Geary's work on the concept of "mind" and the relationship between how important something is to us (in a survival way) and how much time we spend practicing.

    There is a lot of research going on at the Barrow Institute (Dr. Martinez-Conde, who basically paraphrased Warrior Expert Theory in an article in Scientific American Mind last year, which lead to a great email exchange....) dealing with perception that is really relevant to our training methods and technique development as well (especially as it relates to visual awareness, relying on visual input to perform skills (such as reloading) and dealing with multiple threats (if you're thinking plate racks, you're wrong).

    One of the coolest things to come out last year was some work from the Salk Institute that verifies the efficacy of a lateral shift during presentation and then planting to shoot ("lateral movement") because of the way the eye tracks motion.

    If you're not basing your techniques and tactics on the way we know the body and brain work, you're probably not training in the best context.. especially when we are talking about Counter Ambush, defensive situations.

    -RJP
     
  13. Al Thompson

    Al Thompson Moderator Emeritus

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    I've thought it was the sub concious picking up on clues that the concious hadn't processed.

    Two things have worked for me in bad places. One, paying attention to feelings of unease and having at least a "game plan" that was mentally (at least) rehearsed - always easy to modify a plan, hard to come up with one in a few seconds.
     
  14. conw

    conw Member

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    Yup. I still recommend his books, even though he's an ostrich when it comes to firearms rights. You could drive a semi truck full of "assault rifles" immediately upon waking in the middle of the night* right through the holes in his logic.

    *This joke is based partly on his assertion that "waking up in the middle of the night to an assault and trying to defend yourself with a gun is like waking up in control of an 18-wheeler and trying to drive it safely"
     
  15. threefeathers

    threefeathers Member

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    Thank you, I will get this book this weekend.
     
  16. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    "Rapid cognition" is a very educated term for street smarts and sounds more appropriate for use in a classroom. Yes, all of this is related to situational awareness.

    Street smarts is not only applicable to confrontational situations. LEOs, pilots, truck drivers, construction workers, or just about anyone who works in a daily environment that has some kind of danger involved.
     
  17. heron

    heron Member

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    I think we're looking at two things here, survival instinct (which warns us of a threat before our conscious mind can define it) and social instinct (that stopped people from shooting in some of the above-mentioned scenarios). I don't think these things have anything to do with training; that is, our instincts work whether we're trained or not. Notice also, that both of these kinds of messages apply to another person's behavior.
    This only makes sense, since the above examples show that the instinctive messages were perceived before the conscious training regimens could be applied. Training is still good, of course.
     
  18. Rob Pincus

    Rob Pincus Member

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    Maybe.... but too many people equate "street smarts" with "experience".... the fact is that you can develop these intuitive (*not Instinctive, as they are learned*) responses through training. You are capitalizing on the brain's ability to RECOGNIZE stimuli and conditions. So, given that the brain forms memories differently when you are startled/scared, you can actually develop these responses better with high level scenario training than with actual experiences in many cases. Dr. Robert Smith (Direct Action Medical Network) recently referred to this training goal as "developing a rut in the road" that your brain defaults to. This is more specifically referring to motor skills, but the analogy fits for decision making also.

    *Instinctive and Intuitive have been mis-used in our industry for long enough.... if it isn't something that happens naturally without experience, exposure, training, it is not instinctive. Flinching is instinctive. Shooting a gun will never be. For simplicity, we define "intuitive" as "works well with what the body/brain does naturally".


    -RJP
     
  19. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    but too many people equate "street smarts" with "experience"

    This is true if we define experience as years on the job. I've seen many people on the job for 20 years or more that woul lose in a serious confrontation.
     
  20. Titan6

    Titan6 member

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    In the Army we call it "situational awareness". It is not always easy to know whether or not the 13 year old boy pointing the black gun (toy? real?) at you is a threat or not. If it were easy they would call it rocket science.
     
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