Police departments all over the world use tasers to pacify aggressive criminals. The stun gun ejects two wires at high speed that hook to the body of a person and send a 50,000 volt current, stunning the target. It certainly hurts, and the physical damage might take a while to heal. Researchers investigated, however, the psychological and cognitive effects of getting stunned with a taser. Their findings suggest those who get tasered experience short-term cognitive decline to the point of borderline dementia. This can last for a full hour, during which the victim might be unable to understand questioning by police properly and could interfere with their Miranda Rights, the “right to remain silent”.
Tasered for science!
The researchers from Drexel University and Arizona State University split 142 volunteers into four groups: control (just cognitive tests), punching bag (participants were asked to hit a punching bag to simulate a violent encounter), tasered (participants were actually shocked with a police-grade taser) and tasered punching bag (conditions of the two previously mentioned groups combined).
Each group was tested for their cognitive reasoning on various occasions: Immediately after the task, an hour later, three days later, and a week later.
Test results varied the most in the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test (HVLT), in which participants have to read out loud 12 words, then recall them in any order at various points in time. Before the experiment, participants scored 26, or more than the national average. After being tasered, 25% scored lower than 20 or equivalent to a 79-year-old.
“The findings of this study have considerable implications for how the police administer Miranda warnings,” said lead author Dr. Robert J. Kane, of the Criminology and Justice Studies Department in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, in a press release. “If suspects are cognitively impaired after being tased, when should police begin asking them questions? There are plenty of people in prison who were tased and then immediately questioned. Were they intellectually capable of giving ‘knowing’ and ‘valid’ waivers of their Miranda rights before being subjected to a police interrogation? We felt we had moral imperative to fully understand the Tasers’ potential impact on decision-making faculties in order to protect individuals’ due process rights.”
Other effects of getting tasered included impaired concentration, high anxiety and a feeling of being overwhelmed, the researchers report in Criminology and Public Policy. Most effects wear off after about an hour, which prompted the researchers to advise interrogations be made at least an hour after a person is stunned.