What Kind of Cop Would You Be?

By Guest Columnist Apr 10, 2008

by Alex Jung Maybe police forces should require all of their recruits to take this test. The online test is from researchers at the University of Chicago, with the basic premise of deciding how long it takes the participant to react to armed or unarmed black and white men. Your options are either to shoot (presumably, the armed man) or hold (hopefully, the unarmed man) as the computer records your reaction speed. Barring, the incredible creepiness of faux-shooting people, the test hopefully offers a chance to evaluate what we consider "instinctual" by gauging the milliseconds it takes for us to decide what to do. My average reaction time differed from Nicholas Kristof over at the New York Times who discovered he shot armed black men quicker than he shot armed white men, and held his weapon faster for white men than black men. Admittedly, I’m a little more upset at my reaction speed, which was sluggish compared to Kristof. I shot armed white men at a faster rate (761.5 ms to 825.92 ms). Consequently I also held my gun faster for Black men (973.2 ms to 1018.16 ms). The most obvious flaw with taking this test now (and for others who clicked on the link) is that I already know the basic premise, thus tainting my results. As I was taking the test, I was trying to determine what the object in the man’s hand was (which at times seemed slightly unidentifiable to me). Nevertheless, it’s still an interesting pop psychology topic to consider how race affects our instincts. Post your results and discuss below.