Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Moss, Jarrod

Committee Member

Pratte, Micael S.

Committee Member

Jarosz, Andrew F.

Committee Member

Winer, E. Samuel

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

Complete embargo for 2 years

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Applied Psychology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


Deciding to use lethal force with a firearm is a critical decision that has major implications within society. In order to investigate racial bias in shooting decisions, the current dissertation uses the First-Person Shooter Task (FPST). Previous literature has shown that shooting decisions in this task are made faster and more often towards Black targets when compared to White targets. The relationship between this shooting bias and individual differences in cognitive ability is explored. The FPST was presented in three different conditions, each with trial proportions that varied in level of stereotype congruency (i.e., trials that are congruent with racial stereotypes). A Baseline condition presented an even distribution of Black Armed, Black Unarmed, White Armed, and White unarmed targets. A Mostly Congruent condition presented most (80%) of the Black targets as armed and most (80%) of the White targets as unarmed. A Mostly Incongruent condition presented most of the Black targets as unarmed and the White targets as mostly armed. Working memory, theoretically represented as a system of three separate components, was related to shooting behavior in these FPST conditions. The attentional control component of working memory was shown to be more related to shooting bias when compared to the capacity-related components, especially in the Mostly Incongruent condition (where most trials required making shooting decisions that go against racial stereotype). Study 2 used Confirmatory Factor Analysis to test whether attentional control ability was separate from proactive and reactive control strategy usage. Results showed that the attentional control ability was independent from which attentional control strategy was used. Finally, relating attentional control ability and attentional control strategies to shooting behavior, results showed that people with high attentional control and high proactive control usage were more likely to correctly adjust their expectations of threat in the Mostly Incongruent condition when compared to people with lower ability. People with low attentional control and high proactive control usage were more likely to adjust their expectations of threat based on racial stereotypes. Overall, these findings provide new insight into how cognitive ability interacts with shooting decisions in order to produce racial shooting bias.


Available for download on Monday, August 15, 2022