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Psychology

Will Holding a Gun Make You Think Others Are Too? New Research Says Yes.

 

James Bond Holding a Gun

I'm pretty sure he's holding a gun. Wielding a gun increases a person's bias to see guns in the hands of others, new research from the University of Notre Dame shows.

Research from the University of Notre Dame that shows a person’s bias to see guns in the hands of others is increased when the subject is holding a gun. The research, which will be published in the soon-to-be released issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance showed that subjects holding a toy gun were more likely to perceive the image of a person they were looking at to be holding a gun as opposed to another type of object.  The research was performed by Notre Dame Associate Professor of Psychology James Brockmole along with an unnamed colleague from Purdue University.

In five experiments, subjects were shown multiple images of people on a computer screen and determined whether the person was holding a gun or a neutral object such as a soda can or cell phone. Subjects did this while holding either a toy gun or a neutral object such as a foam ball.

The researchers varied the situation in each experiment — such as having the people in the images sometimes wear ski masks, changing the race of the person in the image or changing the reaction subjects were to have when they perceived the person in the image to hold a gun. Regardless of the situation the observers found themselves in, the study showed that responding with a gun biased observers to report “gun present” more than did responding with a ball. Thus, by virtue of affording the subject the opportunity to use a gun, he or she was more likely to classify objects in a scene as a gun and, as a result, to engage in threat-induced behavior, such as raising a firearm to shoot.

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