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TTAG reader DJR writes:

A press release from Washington State University [click here to read] promotes the findings of its aptly named SHOT Lab (the Simulated Hazardous Operational Tasks Laboratory). The report, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Criminologyconfirms that there are indeed racial disparities in defensive shootings. But the conclusions don’t reveal the disparity we’ve been primed to expect . . .

In summary, although the subjects of the study (85 percent of them white) were more likely to show an unconscious threat reaction when confronted with black suspects, they took longer to fire at black suspects than at white or Hispanic suspects — and were less likely to fire in error.

[Lead author and assistant research professor at WSU Spokane’s Sleep and Performance Research Center Lois] James’ study is a follow-up to one in which she found active police officers, military personnel and the general public took longer to shoot black suspects than white or Hispanic suspects. Participants were also more likely to shoot unarmed white suspects than black or Hispanic ones and more likely to fail to fire at armed black suspects.

“In other words,” wrote James and her co-authors, “there was significant bias favoring blacks where decisions to shoot were concerned.”

When confronted by an armed white person, participants took an average of 1.37 seconds to fire back. Confronted by an armed black person, they took 1.61 seconds to fire and were less likely to fire in error. The 240-millisecond difference may seem small, but it’s enough to be fatal in a shooting.

During the Zimmerman trial and now with the controversy surrounding the Michael Brown homicide in Ferguson, race baiters promoted the idea that blacks are a “special” target for white concealed carriers and police. Once again the prog/left narrative falls flat on its face when facts come into play. I’m guessing this report won’t get much play in the mainstream media.

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  1. This comports with my observations after the 1990’s.

    Of course, this won’t change the narrative of the race hustlers. There’s money in race hustling, and there’s no money in the facts.

    • It tends to support my theory that we have more black folks who will go sideways when a white person shoots a black man, regardless of the justification of the shoot, such as Zimmerman / Martin and the Ferguson incident.

      There’s a whole lot of deep seated anger and racism within the black community. As a white man, I dread having to shoot a black man on duty or off, and I hope I never have to pull the trigger under racially charged circumstances.

      I just saw a “Justice for Trayvon” shirt 20 minutes ago at the Chick Filet near 39th and Figueroa. And I kicked a sleeping bum out of the same place, who happened to be black. No use of force needed, thank God.

      • “It tends to support my theory that we have more black folks who will go sideways when a white person shoots a black man, regardless of the justification of the shoot, such as Zimmerman / Martin and the Ferguson incident.”

        These are also the same race hustlers who are perfectly happy with thugs and the state owning all the weapons. Needless to say, I won’t be joining them in the streets.

  2. “you are reading too much into these numbers”

    “that is a rounding error”


    “they are just plain wrong”


      • Well, generally speaking, that is a fair criticism much of the time.

        As for this study…85 participants is hardly ‘representative.’ It’s an interesting result, but I wonder if the sample size were increased if the finding would end up being “no statistical difference.” Sampled averages fluctuate around the “True Average” with smaller and smaller amplitude as sample size increases, but the fluctuations always occur. With such a small sample, we have to be very, very careful not to read too much into this number.

        My question is “who thought this needed to be studied?” No, there’s no behind-the-scenes motivation there. Bet they were po’d at the result and tried to spin it somehow, but that’s just a my own gut feeling.

        • I see that 85% of the participants were white, but I see no actual number of participants. Where did you get the total number of participants?

        • Other information missing would be age of participants, what kind of training they had, any military or leo background, educational level and on and on.

        • The sample size was never disclosed in the article, just the percentage that were white. Also, you don’t need an extremely large sample size to get statistically relevant data. Sure, with a larger sample size you can reduce the error in your answer (any statistical answer has a +/- attached to it.) If the study was not conducted correctly, and the stats were not proven reliable (there is an actual test for that btw) then the study would never have been published.

          Given the funders for the study, NIJ, DARPA, ONR, I’m sure the study did its due diligence.

        • “I see that 85% of the participants were white, but I see no actual number of participants. Where did you get the total number of participants?”

          Ooops. Call that a misread on my part. I read the 85% and thought I ALSO saw 85 participants.

          But, the actual abstract,

          says the total number of participants was 48.

          “This paper reports on the results of a novel laboratory experiment designed to overcome this critical limitation by using high-fidelity deadly force judgment and decision-making simulators to assess both subconscious and behavioral bias among 48 research participants, recruited from the general population.”

          So, while the data is interesting, it is indeed a very, very small sample size given the small difference they claim to observe.

        • “If the study was not conducted correctly, and the stats were not proven reliable (there is an actual test for that btw) then the study would never have been published.”

          Wow. I’ve seen a LOT of crap “science” published in my career.

          48 participants (which took me all of about two minutes to track down) are hardly “representative” of the population no matter how you slice it. How did they control for sex, age, self defense training, political worldview, experience with people of other races in general, and a vast number of other possible covariant influences.

          Also, my experience specifically in criminology research allows me to say, quite confidently, that a response time of 240 milliseconds is CLEARLY inconclusive given the small sample size AND that human response times are often in the 250 millisecond range anyway…so, the difference is the size of something near the average total time. Yeah, no statistical significance issues there.

          I’m not saying the paper is garbage. I’m saying I will not read too much into the conclusion. You want to believe everything you read? That’s your call, and good luck with that.

        • I’d bet that “study” was conducted for an Undergrad Social Science course. Bush league science at it’s finest.

        • Funny, I recently heard a blurb somewhere about a similar study that fit the opposite result, I.e. that people were more likely to fire on the image of a black person more quickly and when they were holding something other than a weapon. I think it was done with college students.

          Not sure where I heard it, but I think it was a “sixty second science” blurb during a talk radio commercial break.

  3. I am surprised there was a difference at all. I saw that funding for the study came from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Institute of Justice and the Office of Naval Research.

      • I’d lump this into the Waste category meant primarily just to keep democrats employed.

        Prager had a great example of a 3M$ government study on why lesbian couples far exceed the norm in being overweight. After 3M$ the brilliant scientists cam up with 2 stupid reasons one of them being something about physical fitness self-esteem issues (and oh how the Left peddles the self-esteem mantra).

        Any way, Prager says I could you give you the answer in 1 minute……Women are less concerned with physical attractiveness of their mates than males. This truth goes against the Leftist ideology that male=female so therefore an answer like that isn’t allowed.

        Once again…just pure waste.

      • Agreed.

        It is also harder to read facial expressions when a dark skin tone reduces the contrast behind the wrinkles in the skin, eyebrows, lips, etc.

        Could it be that the participants hesitated, because it took them longer to determine the threat level of the assailant?

        Please don’t think I am being racist. I’m just trying to rationally observe the differences between people who happen to be of different races. It’s not sexist to state that the sexual organs are different between men and women – It is just a fact of life.

        • Facial reading could play a part, but I’m thinking that it may be because it’s harder to determine (quickly) if a dark-brown/black hand is holding a black gun vs. a beige/pink hand holding a black gun. It may just be due to weapon contrast against the skin of who is holding it.

  4. In summary, although the subjects of the study (85 percent of them white) were more likely to show an unconscious threat reaction when confronted with black suspects, they took longer to fire at black suspects than at white or Hispanic suspects — and were less likely to fire in error.

    Could this be because they know if they make a mistake not will their lives be ruined by race hustlers, but the lives of their families and friends as well?

  5. Bloomberg and his anti-gun crew are afraid to delve into race because they’re all WHITE, and they sure don’t want to be portrayed as racist, bigoted as they are. So the progressive liberal crowd at anti-gun HQ and mainstream media PR central are all going to…overlook any racial aspects of gun confiscation other than to portray all gun owners as white demonistic gun nuts.

  6. This is because us gun extremists spend far too much time practicing on black silhouette targets. We should begin using white, tan, yellow, and red targets, as well, to make everyone happy.

  7. Ahhhmmm gunnna….

    Git me a shotgun, kill all the whitees I seee….!

    I’m gunna git me a shotgun, kill all the whitees I seee….!

  8. Clearly we’re so worried about political crucifixion and a media shark feeding frenzy should we actually have to shoot a black attacker, that it throws a whole additional decision loop into the process. Lovely.

  9. Back in the late 90’s I was friends with a rookie NYC police officer who during a traffic stop in a “bad” neighborhood, was fired upon by the driver. He returned fire, and killed the driver, I saw him 2 days after the shooting and he said the first thing he thought of after the adrenaline surge was thank god the person he shot is white. Kind of sad.

  10. I think if a study were done in the inner city that residents there would be much more likely to shoot like skinned assailants and thugs involved in armed home invasions and other crimes upon them and their families.

    Of course, it may be that there are very few Caucasians in the community and even fewer there that are involved in street gangs. Hmm.

  11. “Once again the prog/left narrative falls flat on its face when facts come into play. I’m guessing this report won’t get much play in the mainstream media.”

    How about “none whatsoever”. Why would the media want to report something that doesn’t advance the narrative of the “evil white racist society”?

  12. Well, you have to go through the reward ratio when shooting a black person. You want to be sure it will not be jail time as a trial is a given.

  13. Given that more than 90% of black murder victims are killed by black assailants (and the percentage is in the same ballpark for white murder victims by white assailants), studies like this are largely a waste of time, effort, and money – if the ultimate purpose is to reduce homicide.

  14. I find it amusing that the Left is always trying to collect statistics that support them, and end up with statistics that support our side, or even worse they prove that math skills and logic are not prized by their side of the discussion.

  15. Hmm, interesting. We have multiple examples over the decades all over the country that if a group feels wronged, justified or not, that it is blacks that will riot, loot, burn down buildings and attack innocent people not directly involved in the initial “outrage”. ie Ferguson.

    So if any rational person concludes that blacks as a group are a greater danger to property and people that were not directly involved in the initial “wrong”, and is more careful around blacks because of this, (because they don’t want to be the one to start a general riot), that means that person is a racist.

    Got it.

  16. That’ not so surprising. I think most white male’s have internalized the potential for “hate-crime” label blowback of shooting at a minority race assailant.

    Now what would really be interesting is to perform the exact experiment with groups of various ethnicities – then do it with LEO’s, and compare all of them.

  17. Go Cougs for taking on this kind of study, small as it was. Hopefully other researchers will take note and expand the population pool for the next time. If I get a chance to put it in the paper (i.e. AP runs it) I’ll definitely consider it.

  18. I don’t know if the “study” is valid, but the conclusion kinda makes sense. The sooner your internal alarm bell goes off, the more time you will have to make a conscious, correct decision. And time is money.

    • “The sooner your internal alarm bell goes off, the more time you will have to make a conscious, correct decision.”

      Personally, that’s how it works for me. Anyone else see it that way?

  19. The fact that the shooter is being observed will also have an impact on the study. So, it’s pretty much worthless as a representation of the facts in America.

  20. When I read findings like this I always first think somebody is thinking too hard then it dawns on me that the answer came first and the results fit the answer. Through in a twist like whites pull the trigger on blacks slower than they do on other whites or browns and you get more funding because everybody knows that is contrary to the essence of white existance. I would rather revert to discussions regarding the most superior handgun caliber or the most inferior yet still acceptable handgun caliber or any other subject to be chased down a rabbit hole.

  21. After reading all the comments it is clear that done of you have read the actual study. The author notes several points;

    1) that these findings can’t be generalized.
    2) that although the sample size is small the statistical power is great.
    3) that race was never an issue in these studies. This is correct as I conducted the studies for the DOD for another reason and this was secondary analysis of the data.


    4) it was not a ‘small’ study – it was three separate studies costing over $1m.
    5) the purpose of these studies was completely different and secondary analysis is a good use of tax payers money as the primary goal of the DOD study was satisfied – this is great value.
    6) the author is neither democrate nor republican. Neither pro nor anti gun. Not even from the US if you read her CV. She did not have a dog in the fight.

    7) I conducted the studies in one of the worlds most advanced simulation labs. I am a 20 year army vet with 9 operational tours. It is externally valid.
    8) the ‘lame’ stream media covered it. There was a segment on CNN that ran all day and two articles in the New York Times.

    If you are going to comment on a news wire piece – check your facts before opening your mouth.

    • So, you are admitting to doing junk science and wasting over a million dollars of tax payer dollars?


      Rationalize it all you want, but 48 participants do NOT represent a cross section of CCW-ers (or others that might find themselves in a self defense shooting) nor can it possibly have any hope or prayer of providing “powerful statistics.”

      Further, below you claim that 85% white because that is the population? Well, that proves you have not a single clue about what you are doing or talking about, because that does not matter. A sufficient representative sample population of whites should be tested and ditto other races if you are trying to control for race…where sufficient representative is that number required to give statistical significance at high confidence levels. The breakdown of whites to other races in the study is completely immaterial.

      Yep. Nice to see OUR money wasted.

      • Do you understand how basic science works?

        You clearly have not read the papers. You have clearly not read the author’s limitiations. How the media portrays this work is beyond the control of the researchers.

        As researchers we have no dog in the fight. We publish the findings, end of story.

        • “Do you understand how basic science works? “

          Yepper. Published quite a few peer reviewed papers, edited a few and taught at a number of universities. In a “hard science” field not social science, and even there was junk science.

          I did go to the source material as presented by Springer. I am not basing my comments on any ‘media’ report.

          You are either deluding yourself or are sadly disillusioned.

  22. This is a report that states the opposite of a previous report I’ve read in the past obviously published by somebody else. (And, there’s nothing wrong with that.) My initial impression is that this was a study done in a “lab setting” with contrivances, where the other report(s) attempt to interpret data recorded from real events in the field. What comes to mind for me is that the “… subjects of the study (85 percent of them white)” is not necessarily a ‘reliably indicative sample’ for the occurances taking place in real life.

    • Who cares? The total participants was 48, so that means the ‘non-white’ group was 7-8 people? And you are claiming that is a representative sample?

      You have GOT to be kidding me.

    • Steve, does the study count Hispanics and Asians in the 85% White ?

      If so, wouldn’t it be better science to categorize participants by the tonal shade of their skin rather than the race they represent?

      A hispanic with a tan may appear to be of black descent and likewise, a pale skinned black person may appear to be Hispanic or even of white/tan European descent. Given that the study is counting 1/100ths of a second in the response time, skin-shades make much more sense than categorization by ancestoral race.

  23. No other report has been published on this research. How journalists spin this research is out of the control of the author.

    • I’m not thinking that 85% white is not representative of society, I’m thinking that well-to-do LEOs participating in a similation may not exhibit the same response as in the field. For the simulation, they lose points maybe. In the field, they chance losing their lives and/or not returning home to their families in good health.

  24. We had LEOs tripple their heart rate standing still in one heart beat. These are sophisticated realistic simulations in a highly advanced defense the laboratory.

    Please read the actual study, not just the news reports.

  25. James, L., Vila, B., Klinger, D. Racial and ethnic in decisions to shoot seen through a stronger lens: Experimental results from high-fidelity laboratory simulations. (Published online: 22May, (DOI) 10.1007/s11292-014-9204-9).

    James, L., Vila, B., Daratha, K. The influence of suspect race and ethnicity on decisions to shoot in a deadly force judgment and decision-making simulator. (Experimental Criminology, Vol. 9, Issue 2, 2013).

  26. I believe this was what the government would call a preliminary study (only 48 participants). They do preliminary studies like this frequently, to determine whether it is worthwhile to perform a comprehensive study. If the preliminary study finds any problems with the methodology, then the comprehensive study is never performed and the sponsoring government agency saves a lot of money.
    However, one thing that is looked upon badly is a result that doesn’t agree with the agenda of the sponsoring agency. I have personally heard of a few preliminary studies that gave the “wrong result”, so they decided not to do the follow-up comprehensive study and get a result that could be used against them.

  27. Keep in mind that they pulled representatives from the public, and as has been said it was only 48 participants. Also note that the actual study did show stronger reactions mentally to black people armed with guns in terms of threat perception. What is most likely is that the people subconsciously knew what the study was trying to ascertain, and in the controlled environment of the experiment subconsciously pulled back. This, if you click the link to the actual lab site, is what the researchers hypothesize. And it is what makes the most sense since generally a higher perception of threat isn’t accompanied by slower reaction times in real life. If this were done under actual situations in which the participants truly thought their life was in danger, it is likely that their actions would follow their threat perception as human actions tent to.


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