Pepper-spray as a self-defense mechanism: does design affect user performance

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Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

Proceedings of the 2020 IISE Annual Conference

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Pepper spray is widely used in the US, and is marketed as an effective self-defense device. While pepper spray can be useful in deterring an attacker, many pepper spray owners do not have any experience using it. This study examines two pepper spray device designs regarding ease of use, accuracy, and overall response time to a presented target. A 2x2 randomized complete block design was implemented in this study with two designs of pepper sprays (side-slide safety and flip-top safety) and two starting locations (purse or pocket) as manipulated factors. The dependent measures included the time it takes to get the pepper spray out, time to disengage the safety, posture and grip used, if and how long the participants looked at the safety after the attacker was displayed, overall response time, and self-reported perceived performance for each device and starting location. A Kruskal-Wallis H Test revealed a significant difference in response times between the flip-top pepper-spray and the side-slide pepper-spray. There was also a significant difference in response times between using the index or thumb as the trigger finger. There was no significant difference in response times when the pepper-spray was kept in a purse or pocket.


Pepper Spray Design, Self Defense


Industrial and Systems Engineering