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Author Topic: Sims Training Research on Heart Rates and Stress  (Read 1245 times)


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Sims Training Research on Heart Rates and Stress
« on: December 16, 2006, 02:47:43 PM »

on Dr Bill Lewinski, Force Science

A new study that measured the body-alarm reactions of officers during and
after an armed encounter underscores the value of simulation training and
the need for treating shooting survivors with sensitivity during OIS

The study confirms that participating in a realistic training scenario can
deliver close to the same emotional and physiological wallop that would be
expected from an actual shooting, and reveals that recalling what happened
in a life-threatening encounter even hours later during an interview in a
safe setting can be nearly as stressful as experiencing the danger in the
first place.

"These preliminary findings have profound implications for trainers and
investigators alike," Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force
Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, told Force
Science News.

"They help us better understand how best to prepare officers to meet the
mental and physical strain of violent confrontations and how we should
approach them afterward to best mine their memories."

More new discoveries are expected to emerge as data collected during the
study are more thoroughly analyzed this winter.

The study is part of a broad-based investigation underway by FSRC into how
officers process and remember life-threatening events. It was conducted at
a training facility near London, England, with funding from the Constables'
Branch Board of the London Metropolitan Police Federation. The Board
approached FSRC about collaborating on a series of practical research
experiments related to street performance after failing to find any sources
for such critical studies in England.

Last October, under Lewinski's direction, and with coordination by Branch
Board representative Dave Blocksidge, 48 male and female volunteers from
London's armed response teams, SWAT unit and diplomatic protection group
were fitted with heart-rate monitors by Justin Dixon, head of the exercise
physiology lab for the Met force.

Divided into teams of 3 and armed with Glock 17s loaded with Simunition
blanks, they were assigned one team at a time to participate in the same
scenario: an armed robber had been shot and was in a hospital setting; they
were to respond to his bedside as a protection-and-containment unit.

As each team entered a simulated hospital lobby, filled with patients and
visitors, they unexpectedly witnessed a verbal altercation in progress
between a receptionist and a man who claimed to be the brother of the
wounded bandit. He was adamantly insisting on seeing the suspect; the
receptionist was standing firm that no visitors were allowed.

The male role-player kept escalating the situation, even grabbing the
receptionist if that's what it took to provoke the officers to intervene.
(This was so realistically staged that during one enactment when Lewinski
was playing the receptionist, he was dragged across a desk and broke his

As officers responded to calm the conflict, another "brother" of the armed
robber unexpectedly popped out of a room off the lobby, wielding a
sawed-off shotgun and holding a female hostage. He fired Simunition blasts
out of both barrels into the floor, then pointed the gun at the officers
and started to make loud demands that his wounded brother be freed.

As soon as officers responded--invariably by shooting and controlling
him--the scenario ended. (Interestingly, the volunteers were highly enough
trained that even though they had never worked together before, each team
automatically split its areas of responsibility so that while 2 officers
dealt with the receptionist squabble one stayed alert to the surrounding
environment. "As a result," Lewinski recalls, "the response to the suspect
with the shotgun was so fast he never got a chance to fully voice his

Immediately after the scenario, the officers, still wearing their heart
monitors, were divided into different groups. Some conferred with other
team members on what they had just experienced, which Lewinski says is
standard after-action practice on London Met. Others were not permitted to
confer. Then each of these groups was further divided. Some wrote reports
of the incident and some were interviewed.

The interviews were conducted by trained investigators who had undergone
refresher sessions on cognitive interviewing techniques before the
scenario. Again, cognitive interviewing, a specialized technique in which
all an officer's senses are explored in an effort to enhance memory of a
stressful experience, is standard practice on London Met, Lewinski says.
(The refresher training, in this case, was provided by Dr. Amina Memon, a
psychologist with the University of Glasgow and a recognized expert on that
interviewing style.)

Finally, the officers were subjected to aerobic fitness tests during which
Dixon measured their pulse rates and oxygen levels.

"The results are being tabulated in fine detail and will be analyzed
extensively but early emerging patterns already appear important," Lewinski
says. He elaborates on 2 of these:

1. Pulse rates among the officers spiked to 160 bpm once the shooting
started. "That's roughly double the normal heart rate for a reasonably fit
person," Lewinski says.

No matter how fit an officer was proven to be by the physical test at the
end of the experiment, his or her pulse rate shot up to about 75% of his or
her maximum heart rate during the sudden, intense psychological stress of
the simulated shooting threat.

"This validates the value of simulation training," Lewinski explains. "It
confirms that realistic scenarios do produce extreme stress arousal that is
at least in the range of what a real-life situation would provoke. And
this, in turn, helps acclimate an officer to respond well under high
psychological stress conditions on the street," where decision-making and
skill performance would generally deteriorate without that training

To achieve that benefit, however, Lewinski emphasizes that exposure to
training scenarios has to be more than just a one-time "demonstration." A
department "needs to use simulation training on a repeated, consistent,
sustained basis and the scenarios need to be constantly freshened in order
to remain unpredictable and provocative."

In any encounter, Lewinski says, "confidence undergirds competence. The
more genuinely confident you are in your performance, the better your
performance will be.

"By participating in simulation scenarios, you gain confidence that
transfers to the real world. You get used to performing under high levels
of stress and are less likely to react to it with fear or anger. Instead of
being alien territory, stress actually becomes your friend, When you're
accustomed to it, emotional intensity fuels great decision-making and great

"The study findings regarding body arousal suggest that trainers who
advocate simulation training for these reasons are on the right track."

2. During the post-scenario interviews, when participants were asked to
recall details of the threat encounter, heart monitors recorded jumps in
the officers' pulse rates up to 135 bpm, about 60% of their maximum heart

"This was less than the spike that occurred during the scenario itself, but
still significantly above normal and surprisingly close to the impact of
actually experiencing the confrontation," Lewinski says. "In other words,
vividly 'reliving' the event in your imagination and talking about it can
produce essentially a secondary stress assault.

"The implication of this is very profound," Lewinski declares. "The
interviews took place one to three hours after the simulated life-threat,
but a strong stress arousal was still produced just by recalling the

"From this, there's no doubt that officers need to be treated with
sensitivity after being in a shooting. Not that they need to be unduly
coddled, but they do need time to decompress and allow the stress response
to abate somewhat so they're not handling the most difficult interview of
their life while in the midst of emotional turmoil. Expecting them to be
RoboCops and immediately report all pertinent information factually and
completely is not realistic.

"We know from other research that stress hormones tend to interfere with
how memories are formed. Stress affects how memories are consolidated and
recalled. So re-inflicting a stressful mental state by asking an officer to
recount the event before he has had a chance to process it on his own is
not likely to be helpful in getting as full and accurate a picture as
possible. The clarity of his thinking and recall is going to be
significantly impaired if he's pushed into giving a statement too soon."

How long a report or interview should be delayed and what preliminaries
might be helpful (such as a walk-through of the scene) were not part of
this phase of the bigger study, Lewinski says. But he does expect that
other important findings about memory will yet emerge from the recent

Three cameras, as well as audio equipment, recorded the scenario so that
what actually was said and done can be compared to the officers' memories
of what took place. Among other things, the researchers will be analyzing
the effect that officers conferring with their teammates had on their

Initially, Lewinski reveals, it appears that allowing officers to confer
produced a significantly fuller and more accurate account of what happened,
but that impression is yet to be precisely quantified from the data.


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Re: Sims Training Research on Heart Rates and Stress
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2009, 06:48:55 AM »

Memory, stress and heart rate  (not performance)
Worth re-reading again and again.

« Last Edit: July 08, 2009, 07:04:04 AM by Hock »