Detect the unexpected: a science for surveillance

Kenneth C. Scott-Brown, Patrick D. J. Cronin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)
    175 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to outline a strategy for research development focused on addressing the neglected role of visual perception in real life tasks such as policing surveillance and command and control settings. Approach – The scale of surveillance task in modern control room is expanding as technology increases input capacity at an accelerating rate. The authors review recent literature highlighting the difficulties that apply to modern surveillance and give examples of how poor detection of the unexpected can be, and how surprising this deficit can be. Perceptual phenomena such as change blindness are linked to the perceptual processes undertaken by law-enforcement personnel. Findings – A scientific programme is outlined for how detection deficits can best be addressed in the context of a multidisciplinary collaborative agenda between researchers and practitioners. The development of a cognitive research field specifically examining the occurrence of perceptual “failures” provides an opportunity for policing agencies to relate laboratory findings in psychology to their own fields of day-to-day enquiry. Originality/value – The paper shows, with examples, where interdisciplinary research may best be focussed on evaluating practical solutions and on generating useable guidelines on procedure and practice. It also argues that these processes should be investigated in real and simulated context-specific studies to confirm the validity of the findings in these new applied scenarios.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)395-414
    Number of pages21
    JournalPolicing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • Safety measures
    • Surveillance
    • Violence
    • Cognitive social psychology
    • Policing
    • Visual analytics


    Dive into the research topics of 'Detect the unexpected: a science for surveillance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this