If you have been combing through the use-of-force simulator market, you have heard “high fidelity” associated with law enforcement and military training. There is a good reason for this, as high fidelity lends to realistic and effective training.

These qualities are important in any type of training, but especially in simulation training, since trainees are expected to perform just as they would in a real-life situation. Anything less would cause training scars – events where improper training carries over to dangerous mistakes in the real world. There are two types of fidelity that simulators need to have in order to instill proper training techniques and prevent training scars: physical fidelity and psychological fidelity.

Physical Fidelity Training

To have high physical fidelity, a training session should have a realistic setting, hence the ‘physical’ aspect of the name. Besides walking into a simulation, trainees should be equipped with the same tools they use in the field: duty firearm, TASER®, OC spray and other critical tools.

Instructors can get creative in how they implement physical fidelity within their simulator. One way is by adding props, which allows trainees to practice obtaining cover and concealment just as they would in a real-world setting. By using common items found around the department, even ones as simple as boxes or chairs, trainees can learn to work around objects.

Having a multi-screen simulator also brings increased physical fidelity as the view expands from a single screen to multiple screens producing 180300 degrees – allowing officers to keep their head on a swivel and prepare for threats coming from various directions.

Psychological Fidelity Training

While having a realistic environment is important, what is arguably more crucial, is that trainees engage in the same mental processes as in the field—hence the psychology. Simulation training can provide high psychological fidelity when realistic scenarios are used, especially when combined with superior video-based graphics and high-quality sound. This transports trainees to the scene, allowing them to believe the situation is real—even just for a few training minutes.

The goal of psychological fidelity is to instill similar responses to stress and threat cues. If an officer or recruit is training in an unrealistic setting with video game-style characters, they will not show the same empathy or reactions as they would towards a realistic simulated subject – simply because it is obvious that the characters are “fake.”

The bottom line is that officers must have a lifelike training simulation to be able to take the training seriously and react under stress – just as they would in the field.

It is crucial that officers find their training environment ‘believable’ in order to get the most out of it and stay safer on the streets. To learn more about VirTra’s high fidelity use-of-force, de-escalation and firearm training simulators, speak to a VirTra specialist.

When looking for the most effective ways to train your cadre, you must find a method that will ensure skills are properly transferred to the field. Officers should be immersed in the training both physically and psychologically in order for skills to be able to transfer effectively. If one or both of these are not possible, there may be a big difference between officers’ performance in the classroom and on the street.

It is no secret that simulation training has become a new and effective way for officers to learn skills and retain information. Unfortunately, picking a simulator isn’t as simple as you might think – you have to do the proper research to ensure you’re getting everything out of it that you need. As with most technology, the cheaper solution is likely not the best. No agency would purchase the cheapest firearms, so why purchase the cheapest training technology, especially when trying to ensure officers utilize their training and firearms in the most appropriate situations?
There are two ways that a simulator should immerse trainees: through physical fidelity and psychological fidelity. These are two different concepts but together they can create an ideal training environment.

Physical Fidelity

Physical fidelity measures the similarity between conditions within the simulator and conditions in reality. Some considerations include the weapon used within the simulation, the accuracy of the ballistics and the way on-screen characters react to the trainee’s actions and words.

Psychological Fidelity

Psychological fidelity relates more to the mental side of training. Not only does the simulation have to be physically realistic, but trainees must experience the same mental processes as they would in the field. Officers must feel stress, empathy and other relevant emotions to prepare them for real life encounters.

How VirTra Achieves Both

VirTra achieves both physical and psychological fidelity through the following methods and more:

• Filming real human actors with professional equipment rather than using CGI
• Manufacturing recoil kits and magazines that fit into the trainee’s duty weapon
• The patented Threat-Fire® that provides electric feedback for consequences such as gunshots, dog bites, explosions, etc.

Imagine for a second that you had one but not the other. You may have great psychological fidelity by allowing officers to experience stress in a simulator, but what if you gave them clearly fake weapons that do not provide the same recoil as their duty weapon? They would simply not be prepared when equipped with their real firearm.

What if the opposite is true and you are using your duty weapon with highly accurate ballistics and recoil, but what is shown on screen are CGI characters that look robotic? It would be difficult to empathize with on-screen subjects who are clearly not real people.

A true simulation training experience needs to have both physical and psychological fidelity. Missing one or both may cost you in the end – as you must “train how you fight.”

Contact a VirTra specialist to learn more about properly training the mind and body.