An Investigation of Civilian Implicit Attitudes Toward Police Officers

Rikki H. Sargent, Leonard Scott Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This research investigated civilian implicit attitudes toward police. Previous research has solely used explicit measures (or examined police officers’ implicit reactions to civilians). Two studies assessed the implicit activation of safety and fear when participants were primed with police using a Word Fragment Completion Task (e.g., Johnson and Lord 2010). In a college sample, police primes led to increased safety and decreased fear construct activation, whereas in an online sample, both safety and fear became more accessible. Overall, results indicated that a wide range of individual differences in implicit attitudes toward police exist, that implicit reactions to police officers might be distinct from explicit global evaluations, and that, despite the existence of negative police-civilian interactions, the appearance of police officers might still tend to activate safety-related thoughts. The findings prompt the need to further assess the underlying cognitive components of civilian attitudes toward police officers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Applied psychology
  • Implicit attitude
  • Police officers
  • Prejudice
  • Social psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Law

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