Philip Butler

Research group:
Cognitive Science
029 208 74007
58, Park Place

Research summary

My previous research focused on UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) incident commanders’ decision making.  The study included 6 different FRS and involved the use of helmet cameras on incident commanders when in charge of real emergencies. Subsequent interviews were conducted using the helmet camera footage to aid recall and probe them about the cognitive skills they used.  An analysis of the interview transcriptions identified a distinct pattern of decision making, which was not in accordance with the extant UK FRS decision making model. The research subsequently influenced the revision of that model.

I am currently leading a project to identify the non-technical skills, e.g. leadership, situation awareness and decision making, of UK FRS incident commanders and the subsequent development of a behavioural marker scheme that may be used to assess video or live performance. 

I am also involved in a research project investigating communication and information transfers between UK FRS incident commanders and frontline staff and the resultant degree of compliance. 

I am interested in examining the eye movements of UK FRS incident commanders whilst they conduct an initial assessment of the scene of an emergency and to explore the effects of anxiety and experience on their eye movements, situation awareness and decision making.

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Full list of publications


Research topics and related papers

Non-technical skills and associated behaviours of UK FRS incident commanders

Physiological differences between novice and expert UK FRS incident commanders when assessing the scene of an emergency and the influence of anxiety

UK FRS incident commanders’ situation awareness and decision making


ESRC 1+3 MSc and PhD

Research group

Cognitive Science

Perception and Action

Research collaborators

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Cardiff University

Prof. Rob Honey, Cardiff University


Undergraduate education

2011 - 15 BSc Psychology, Birkbeck College, London University

Postgraduate education

2015 – current MSc in Social Science Research Methods, Cardiff University


1984 – 1990 Dorset Fire Brigade

1990 – 2015 London Fire Brigade