The police hunch: the Bayesian brain, active inference, and the free energy principle in action

Author: Gareth Stubbs1, Karl Friston2
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Rabdan Academy, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. <sup>2</sup> Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
Conference/Journal: Front Psychol
Date published: 2024 Mar 6
Other: Volume ID: 15 , Pages: 1368265 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1368265. , Word Count: 193

In the realm of law enforcement, the "police hunch" has long been a mysterious but crucial aspect of decision-making. Drawing on the developing framework of Active Inference from cognitive science, this theoretical article examines the genesis, mechanics, and implications of the police hunch. It argues that hunches - often vital in high-stakes situations - should not be described as mere intuitions, but as intricate products of our mind's generative models. These models, shaped by observations of the social world and assimilated and enacted through active inference, seek to reduce surprise and make hunches an indispensable tool for officers, in exactly the same way that hypotheses are indispensable for scientists. However, the predictive validity of hunches is influenced by a range of factors, including experience and bias, thus warranting critical examination of their reliability. This article not only explores the formation of police hunches but also provides practical insights for officers and researchers on how to harness the power of active inference to fully understand policing decisions and subsequently explore new avenues for future research.

Keywords: Bayesian brain; active inference; decision making; free energy principle (FEP); intuition; policing; suspicion.

PMID: 38510309 PMCID: PMC10951090 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1368265