Author Information

Holly Lonergan


The purpose of this project was to replicate research on embodied cognition and extend it to the judgments related to law enforcement, specifically decisions associated with the use of force. Excessive use of force by police officers is often characterized as an act driven by racism and ethnic and social biases. However, decisions are far more complex and are shaped by many psychological and environmental factors. The current study examined how one of these factors, the perception of physical or metaphorical weight, may influence judgments about suspect dangerousness and incident severity. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in which the experience of weight was manipulated by holding a heavy clipboard, wearing a mock police duty belt, or pinning on a police badge. They watched a video of a police vehicular pursuit, assessed the dangerousness of the event and made judgments about the behavior of the officers and driver. Results showed that Caucasians rated the use of force in the video as more appropriate and tended to have more positive police perceptions than other race and ethnic groups combined. Participants in the police badge and duty belt condition were more correct about the details of the vehicular pursuit and perceived the driver as significantly more dangerous.

Note on the Author

Holly Lonergan is a graduating senior majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Her research project was completed in the summer of 2016 under the mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Spievak (Psychology) and made possible with funding provided by the Adrian Tinsley Program Summer Research Grant. Holly presented this project in November at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Rights Statement

Articles published in The Undergraduate Review are the property of the individual contributors and may not be reprinted, reformatted, repurposed or duplicated, without the contributor’s consent.

Included in

Psychology Commons