Effect of point-of-view on interpretation of body-worn camera footage: A psychophysiological investigation of cognitive processing and evaluation of culpability

UGA Owens Institute for Behavioral Research Faculty Seed Grant Program.

Abstract: Body-worn cameras (BWC), small cameras worn on the body that record and provide footage of police encounters from a first-person point of view (POV), are used by an increasing number of police agencies around the United States (Chapman, 2018). Footage from these devices can be used to promote improved officer-citizen relations, deter breaches of procedural justice, and increase transparency within the justice system (e.g., White House, 2014; BJA, 2015). Some reports indicate that their use contributes to a positive relationship between law enforcement and citizens (BJA, 2015). However, despite the advantages of BWC to both police and citizens, recent research indicates that people interpret BWC footage heterogeneously in ways that can facilitate biased outcomes (Bailey, Read et al., 2021; Salerno & Sanchez, 2020; Wilson et al., 2017). For example, one study found that viewers of BWC footage attributed a violent interaction to situational factors when told the footage came from a policewoman. When told that the same BWC footage came from a policeman, viewers attributed the interaction to the officer’s aggression (Salerno & Sanchez, 2020). This research, and others, demonstrates that societal stereotypes and other cognitive processes bias interpretation of BWC video evidence. This is problematic because the collection and release of BWC videos shape public discourse around policing and are often used to assess citizen/officer culpability in both formal (e.g., trial) and informal (e.g., public opinion) contexts. For this reason, we propose to build on our previous work by (1) assessing how the first-person POV inherent to BWC footage interacts with social factors such as citizen race to affect perceptions of citizen/officer culpability, (2) testing if instructions that promote awareness of these potential biasing effects can reduce bias in interpretation of BWC footage and, (3) examining implicit, automatic processes underlying reception of both the videos and the instructions using psychophysiological measures and eye- tracking.


Glenna Read  Bartosz Wojdynski 

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