Control Over Automatic Action Tendencies Under Threat: A Biofeedback Training in Virtual Reality

Project Lead Category Project status
Jan Brammer Gaming Preparation

Fast and accurate decision making in threatening situations is vital for police officers on duty. However, under threat, people tend to react impulsively and lack cognitive control. This is why police officers need to train control over their responses to threat as much as possible. To enable this, we develop a virtual training environment with real-time biofeedback. We combine virtual reality and biofeedback to create a personalized, realistic training experience, while honing state-of-the-art technology and psychophysical theory.

Project team

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23-04-2018

We do not perform at our best when we’re in highly stressful or even threatening situations: our actions are more impulsive and less deliberate. This is especially problematic for police officers, who are expected to perform responsibly and rationally in the face of threat, without exception. Their actions are scrutinized by the public, and their mistakes can have harmful consequences for others. This is why police officers need to train control over their responses to threat as much as possible. Since this kind of training is costly (in terms of time and personnel) we want to develop a low-cost training tool that offers the possibility to practice controlled responses to threatening situations with real-time feedback. To achieve this, we combine virtual reality (VR) and biofeedback to create a personalized, realistic training experience, while honing state-of-the-art technology and psychophysical theory.

We believe that the decline of performance under threat is to a large extend explained by a sub-optimal physiological state. Therefore, we will study which patterns in heart rate, skin conductance, breathing, and brain activity are predictive of mistakes under threat. We will then use this knowledge to develop a training game in VR, where a player can practice to control their behavioral responses to threatening situations. These situations will be representative of police reality, for example, the player could be confronted with an armed, aggressive citizen. In the training game, the player’s physiology will be monitored continuously, and they will be alerted if their physiological reaction falls into the previously identified suboptimal state. Alerting the player to their internal state is the essence of our biofeedback training, and we will investigate if players subsequently succeed in counteracting their sub-optimal physiological reactions.

Eventually, after the player has been prepared by means of the training game, we will test if the biofeedback results in behavioral performance increases. In other words, we will assess if those players who are aware of their physiological reaction to threat, and try to regulate their arousal, make less mistakes in handling stressful situations. We will test the effect of biofeedback by sending the player on a virtual patrol, where they encounter several threatening situations that require fast and accurate responses.

 

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Project team

Abele Michela title=
Abele Michela

Phd student working on a training program for Dutch Police incorporating Virtual Reality and Biofeedback.

Function

PhD-Candidate

Contact

E-mail Abele

Location

Nijmegen

Jan Brammer title=
Jan Brammer

Brains, bytes, and bikes.

Function

PhD-Candidate

Contact

E-mail Jan

Karin Roelofs title=
Karin Roelofs

Professor of Experimental Psychopathology at the Behavioural Science Institute (BSI) and chair of the PI-group “Affective Neuroscience” at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (DCCN), Radboud University Nijmegen (RU)

Function

Professor

Contact

E-mail Karin

Isabela Granic title=
Isabela Granic

Professor and Chair of the Developmental Psychopathology department in the Behavioural Science Institute; writer; voracious podcast consumer; mother of two upstanding little gamers

Function

Director of GEMH Lab

Contact

E-mail Isabela

Evan Hirsch title=
Evan Hirsch

Managing Partner of a consortium of business, creative and applied research leaders that help clients achieve strategic growth through innovation and development of successful creative and product organizations.

Function

Executive Creative Director - Collaborator

Contact

E-mail Evan

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