Gunning for affective realism: Emotion, perception and police shooting errors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Affective realism, roughly the hypothesis that you “perceive what you feel”, has recently been put forward as a novel, empirically-backed explanation of police shooting errors. The affective states involved in policing in high-pressure situations result in police officers literally seeing guns even when none are present. The aim of this paper is to (i) unpack the implications of this explanation for assessing police culpability and (ii) determine whether we should take these implications at face value. I argue that while affective realism stands to diminish, if not eliminate, the moral and legal responsibilities of officers who have made shooting errors, the empirical data itself does not directly support such a radical rethink of police culpability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Early online date10 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2023


  • Affective realism
  • Emotion
  • Predictive processing
  • Racism
  • Shooter bias


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