Posted on May. 30, 2023 by Lon Bartel

The human brain is a complex system that allows us to focus our attention, process information, generate responses, and carry out behaviors. These processes are critical to our ability to perform various tasks and interact and perform within the world around us. Officers must rely on this to make rapid and high-impact decisions daily. Anxiety can significantly impact our cognitive processing and attentional control, ultimately affecting our performance. In this article, we will explore the mechanisms involved in cognitive processing, attentional control, and the impact of anxiety on these systems.

What Does Anxiety Do?

Anxiety can have a significant impact on performance by interfering with attentional processing and altering the neural mechanisms involved in cognitive processing. It increases distractibility, decreases the ability to focus selectively on important information, and generates negative thoughts and emotions that distract from the task at hand. Anxiety has also been shown to activate the amygdala, which processes emotional information and interferes with the normal functioning of the prefrontal cortex. This can lead to increased sensitivity to errors and decreased performance.

How Training in a Simulated Environment Can Help

The VirTra simulators provide a critical, experimental, controlled environment where we can develop confidence in our skills and coping strategies to negate anxiety. The Behavior Analysis Threat Recognition course is a perfect example. This NCP-certified course provides the ability to increase the difficulty and threat to match the participant level. Instructors can continue to push it or back it down if needed. This allows for techniques such as positive self-talk, cyclic sighing, or forced attentional drive to be honed.

The neural mechanisms involved in cognitive processing and attentional control play a critical role in our ability to perform various tasks and interact with the world. Anxiety can significantly impact performance by altering these systems. Understanding how anxiety affects attentional and cognitive processes is essential for developing strategies to mitigate its negative impact on performance. The VirTra simulators provide a highly flexible and adaptable tool to build the mitigation skills.

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