The effects of subjective time pressure and individual differences on hypotheses generation and action prioritization in police investigations

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2013 Mar;19(1):83-93. doi: 10.1037/a0032148.


When individuals perceive time pressure, they decrease the generation of diagnostic hypotheses and prioritize information. This article examines whether individual differences in (a) internal time urgency, (b) experience, and (c) fluid mental ability can moderate these effects. Police officers worked through a computer-based rape investigative scenario, in which 35 were subjected to a time pressure manipulation, with their hypotheses generation and prioritization skills compared with a control (n = 41). Group 1 was told they would "get less time to complete the scenario compared with other officers," although both groups had equal amounts of time. Regression analyses found that time pressure reduced hypothesis generation and that individual differences in time urgency moderated this effect; individuals who tend to perceive time to pass more slowly than it is continued to generate hypotheses despite the presence of time pressure. Time pressure also influenced the likelihood of action prioritization at the start of the investigation. Time pressure was found to increase action prioritization, but only for officers with low time urgency or high fluid ability. Experience had no effect on time pressure during the investigative scenario. Implications of these findings are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Crime
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Police*
  • Problem Solving*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult