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UT researchers develop behavioural measure of adaptability relevant for police contexts

Examining adaptive behaviour in law enforcement is the topic of a new UT research project, which has been awarded funding by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) today

Behavioural measure of adaptability

The Adaptable Law Enforcement Officer: Developing a Measure of Adaptive Effectiveness project led by Simon Oleszkiewicz (University of Twente), in collaboration with Erik Mac Giolla (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) is the latest research project to be awarded funding from CREST’s recent commissioning call.  

Oleszkiewicz’s project aims to develop a behavioural measure of adaptability relevant for police contexts.

Consider, for example, the following situations:

  1. when a police handler is to meet his source in secret, but the source decides to bring a friend along or
  2. when an undercover officer is invited to a private party, but the festivity turns into the planning of a crime.

In order to maintain a credible guise while also maintaining the mission objective (e.g., to avoid participating in the criminal activity while upholding status in the group), these situations require an adaptive response from the officer.


To examine adaptive behaviour, Oleszkiewicz’s team have developed a novel experimental set-up inspired by observations of the training at the Los Angeles Police Department.

In Experiment 1, university students will take the role of an ‘agent’ that has to complete three ‘undercover missions’. Adaptive behaviour will be elicited by three features: a goal, an expectation, and a violation of that expectation. This violation creates the novel or unexpected situation that participants must adapt to in order to attain their mission objective. Adaptability will be measured as the adjustments made in response to the changed situational demand.

Experiment 2 will be a vignette study to examine perceptions of the adaptive responses. A sample of practitioners with relevant experiences will watch a number of video recordings of adaptive responses from Experiment 1 and rate the efficacy in attaining mission objectives.


CREST was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council and is funded by the UK’s security and intelligence agencies. It aims to deliver a world-class, interdisciplinary portfolio of activity, that maximises the value of behavioural and social science research in understanding, mitigating and countering threats to national security. In addition to long-term research projects, CREST commissions six and twelve-month projects to react to new and emerging requirements of its funders. CREST offered £1.12m to fund innovative proposals within this latest round of commissioning.

After a rigorous and independent review process, Simon Oleszkiewicz’s project (in addition to the recently announced projects) was selected from more than 80 applications to CREST's recent commissioning call. The research will start in October this year and is due for completion in September 2020.

 You can read more about the project here:

L.P.W. van der Velde (Laurens)
Spokesperson Executive Board (a.i.) / Press officer