By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Environment
Just picking up a gun suddenly make the world appear more violent, research suggests.
I don't own a gun. But if I did go around with one, I'd probably be very much on edge since I'll quickly start to notice that a lot more people were packing heat too.
That's what researchers at University of Notre Dame have concluded after conducting a study to determine whether the simple act of wielding a gun alters the way people see the world. Previous studies have already suggested that visual perception can be highly subjective, depending on your attributes. For instance, it's been shown that people with broader shoulders tend to perceive doorways to be narrower, and softball players with higher batting averages perceive the ball to be bigger. However, can just picking up a gun suddenly make the world appear more violent?
To find out, the researchers subjected volunteers to a series of five experiments in which they 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 judged the person in the image to hold a gun. Regardless of the situation, the study showed that responding with a gun created a bias in which observers reported a gun being present more often than they 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.
“Beliefs, expectations and emotions can all influence an observer’s ability to detect and to categorize objects as guns,” said James Brockmole, a professor of Psychology and a co-author of the study . “Now we know that a person’s ability to act in certain ways can bias their recognition of objects as well, and in dramatic ways. It seems that people have a hard time separating their thoughts about what they perceive and their thoughts about how they can or should act.”
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The researchers showed that the ability to act is a key factor in the effects by showing that while simply letting observers see a nearby gun didn't influence their behavior, holding and using the gun did.
“One reason we supposed that wielding a firearm might influence object categorization stems from previous research in this area, which argues that people perceive the spatial properties of their surrounding environment in terms of their ability to perform an intended action,” Brockmole said.
The study is detailed in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.
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Mar 22, 2012
1) Aware and concerned is hugely different then paranoia. huge Huge HUGE difference. 2) More paranoid? Who beyond criminals and mental patients are paranoid where-which you could make them MORE paranoid? (hypothetical) Who was this article aimed at anyway? Maybe it was me. (
I was born in the country and owned my first .22 rifle at 12 years old. I spent 5 years in a local NRA shooting range improving my marksmanship. Gun safety and hunting were part of my upbringing. When I joined the Army in 1967 , I shot "Expert" with the M-14. During my two tours in Viet Nam from 1968-70 I carried a weapon constantly and sometimes even slept with it. Almost everybody in Viet Nam at that time "carried". I never felt even one second of paranoia - in fact I felt just the opposite. I now live in an urban area infested with crime and I presently do not own a weapon. When I walk down the street, especially at night, I feel feel paranoid NOT having a weapon on me. If even one normal gun-carrying person was in that theater in Aurora, CO there would have been perhaps one or two people shot - not 71! Gun control advocates like to use examples like this to further restrict gun ownership. To me, it reinforces just the opposite because criminals and "crazies" will always get a hold of a weapon regardless of the their legality.
My above post was done with a degree of humor, but I suspect it is also an explanation of what was observed in the study itself. I would submit that myself, and my kids would have a different viewpoint with a gun placed in their hands, then your average non-owner would. Guns are inanimate objects with no intrinsic good or evil attributes. Instead, when someone picks one up, their view is shaped by their past experiences. A non gunowner who is handed a weapon is going to view it in light of what they have seen and experienced in the past, which unfortunately for most of them, is only the local news crime reports and adjust their perceptions accordingly. I would submit all this test measured is how the average non gun owner perceives firearms, and not how firearms somehow influenced their thoughts or potential behaviors.
I've found that owning several firearms has given me an uncontrollable urge to get out in the woods more during hunting season, at other times hang out at places called "ranges" and punch numerous holes in paper and hang out with other good, decent people with similar afflictions. It drives me to purchase funny looking pieces of machinery and take used pieces of brass, and combine them with lead, plus various powders and turn them in to something called ammunition. And worst, its inheritable. It's led me to spend time with my kids doing these same activities. It's even brought me to the point of showing my sons how to field dress a deer and cook their own food from it. And it makes me sleep better knowing my 24 year old daughter that lives alone, has a 20 ga pump under her bed, and she knows how to use it. I tell you, its just a terrible influence and addiction.
To those who think carrying a gun is stupid or wrong: "You don't live in my neighborhood"! I feel paranoid without one!
As a CCW holder of 7 years and with considerable training in both classroom and range, I can relate to many of the great comments and observations expressed in this thread. This appears to be a flawed study with inappropriate conclusions. I too am aware of the awesome responsibility associated with carrying a concealed weapon. And the training that is received by most responsible handgun owners, is usually heavily involved with observation of your surroundings and threat avoidance. Prior to my training, I was like most people, fairly oblivious to the idea that people around me might be carrying a concealed handgun. Even today, when I see an armed law enforcement officer or citizen who is openly carrying a handgun, I pause to contemplate the potential for that weapon to be used, and hope that the person is properly trained in all aspects of its use, once the weapon leaves its holster. Those of us with CCW's have a certain level of comfort knowing that we are not totally at the mercy of someone who poses a threat. Unfortunately not everyone with a CCW has the level of training needed to make the intelligent choices that are required in a stressful situation. However, the people who go through the extra effort of becoming responsible gun owners and getting proper training, these folks are probably the least likely to make an inappropriate response to a threatening situation. I applaud all the comments here regarding the nature of self-defense and the role of the responsible citizen in carrying a concealed weapon.
In addition, wouldn't someone who was handed the toy gun by an authority figure be guessing that it may be of use in the upcoming test? It's like a video game, if you find a key most likely there will be a lock later on that fits the key. Or a TV show where you know that the murderer must be someone you've seen earlier in the show. Real life is not like that. A person carrying a gun is very unlikely to need it on a given day. They have chosen to trade off the added inconvenience of concealed weapon for an improved chance of returning home safe.
"...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...." This is a huge leap. The issue is more one of threat recognition and situational awareness. Do the same test with a knife (or an atlatl) and compare results. Of particular objection is the last part of the quoted statement. Nothing is the description above had anything to do with drawing and firing - it was concerned with recognizing a particular kind of threat. The leap to drawing and firing is just ...to big a gap.
the government is authorizing the killing of American citizens? Or locking them up indefinately with access to legal counsel or their families? Why does the government want to fly unmanned drone airplanes (essentially a slow-speed missle) over our houses, or to give military equipment ranging from armored personnel carriers to projectile weapons (guns, rocket grenades, explosives, noxious gases, etc.) except to "monitor and control" the population? Only honest people obey the laws when they are forced to disarm themselves. People known as criminals are already breaking the laws and will continue doing so. No amount of gun control will keep them from violating those laws yet we are expected to put ourselves at a horrible disadvantage because of these ludicrous laws. The law-abiding people that DO carry firearms do so with the realization of the responsibility they have been given. To be aware and cognizant of your surrounding and what is happening around you does NOT make you paranoid, just more observant than 90% of the population. If you question that, look at the statistics of people that have been hurt or killed because they are either talking or texting on their phones, or listening to their "tunes", to the exclusion of the world around them. They are showing not only a gross lack of consideration for their own safety and well-being, but an even greater lack for the poor schlep that turns them into a "hood ornament"!
I get paranoid when I see people carrying guns. I don't need to be carrying one myself. Perhaps they should have tried the study from the opposite perspective. 10 people are in line at a bank. Someone walks in carrying a pistol. They are not the police. What would you do?
Aside from the already made comments about "toy" guns, weak premise of the experiment, and overall misconceptions about really carrying a firearm for self defense, regular training, regular practice and daily reality shows just how this little experiment does not reflect reality. Being willing to take another life to save ones' own or another or several others is not something that most CCW holders take lightly. Flashing on pictures on a screen while holding a toy firearm is no comparison to the level of training that some of us adhere to in order to not make a very dreadful mistake yet still be able to perform and respond as one should. Get out of your ivory tower and get down on the streets before you try to make invalid observations.
People are paranoid if they carry TOY GUNS because if they run into someone carrying a REAL gun - that person might shoot first and ask questions later! :-) If the proverbial "taking a knife to a gun fight" is bad - what must it be like to take a TOY GUN??? PS - I sure hope my tax dollars were not behind any of this "research"!
I have to echo that permit holders do their utmost to NOT draw their firearm unless they or a family member is in emminent danger. When you decide to use a firearm in self defense, you will be arrested, possibly prosecuted, and likely sued. Sadly, this will happen regardless of the circumstances. Because of these severe consequences, I would be very hesitant to defend my fellow citizens. Most states have laws against brandishing a weapon, even if it isn't pointed at someone. This has caused arrests of permit holders who accidentally allowed someone to see their weapon as it is being stored or even a "wardrobe malfunction". Clamping down on gun ownership is a drop in the bucket compared to all the other woes of our society. When social engineers try to fix problems with ridiculous laws, the only thing they usually accomplish is reducing everyone's freedom and allowing the problem to get worse. As proof, the worst crime areas of the USA are those with the strictest gun laws.
How many of the subjects were licensed and trained carriers? I have owned and legally carried a weapon for many years, and have been around others who have done so. My observation is that a properly trained and licensed carrier of a weapon is, if anything, far more observant and careful. This is not paranoia, but training. Never present your weapon unless you intend to discharge it. Never discharge it unless you have clearly seen and identified the threat. The current intent to revisit the Castle laws and Stand Your Ground laws ARE paranoia. Since 2005, Route 98 from Gulf Breeze to Navarre, Florida has seen 34 car-pedestrian accidents and four fatalities just this March. Should we then revisit the driving requirements and change the licensing and traffic laws? Perhaps drivers should be barred from streets that have pedestrians and pedestrians not allowed to walk where there is automobile traffic. OR ... perhaps the police should do their jobs, make the arrests and let the courts decide if a crime was committed.
If an individual has a permit to carry a firearm ( and we are assuming here that this isn't someone such as a police officer or military), they would have become very familiar with the responsibility and requirements to be in that situation to begin with. You cannot just go get a gun and start walking around town with it (unless you're a criminal or an idiot) without proper training and immersion in the culture. After you carry a concealed firearm long enough it is no different than carrying your wallet or wearing a watch. You just become accustomed to it and it becomes an almost unconsious act to carry. With trainng you do become much more attentive and aware of your surroundings but that does not constitute a for sure reaction to draw your gun any time someone moves. Quite the opposite, you are trained avoidance as a first course of action (which everyone carrying or not could stand to increase their awareness levels of their surroundings) during any confrontation if at all possible. This impression that gun owners are insane cowboys itching for a fight needs to be addressed. This is as ignorant as asuming that all old single women have 50 cats. Unless you live in an area that bans gun carrying altogether, you are most likely walking by many many concealed carry individuals who will give you no indication what so ever that they have a firearm on their person. That's the whole point in the concealed part of the phrase. Stop thinking of gun owners as wanna-be Rambo's and start thinking of them as what they are. The sheep dogs that silently and respectfully gaurd the sheep. Sheep being everyone else who isn't educated on gun use or carrying who may be harmed or killed by people (criminals) using guns for crime.
This is interesting research, which I will want to read when published. As summarized here, it points out the need for training and familiarization for safe firearm carry. Just like any other martial art. I have three suggestions for follow-on research: (1) Compare gun-in-hand scenarios with gun-available scenarios. (That is, does having a gun in a holster or on a table nearby have the same effect? I would be surprised if it did.) (2) Compare groups based on prior familiarity/experience, distinguishing between hunter/collector/target familiarity vs. combat/CCW familiarity. (That is, does the novelty effect of the gun exaggerate the reported tendencies?) (3) Compare groups based on approval/disapproval of firearms. (That is, does either extreme of emotion the individual attaches to the tool affect the reported tendencies?)
From personal experience I have noted that medical diagnoses by doctors almost always perceive the solution for a medical problem to involve their specialty. Surgeons almost always see a surgical solution whereas non-surgeons are more likely to see prescriptions, or therapy as a solution for the same problem. It is interesting to note that these researchers were biased by previous studies on spatial perspective. Undoubtedly people look to solve problems with the tools they are experienced with, have at hand, are most comfortable, confident and familiar with - guns, or hammers, or scalpels. However, in this particular case the more relevant and meaningful information wasn't tested - how a predatory aggressor sees potential prey as armed or unarmed and their response. By the same reasoning it suggest they are going to perceive from experience that their skills are most successfully used with unarmed prey.
Using computers and toy guns is not in anyway, shape, or form a real life situation. This "experiment" has far too many flaws to amount to anything that should be taken as serious.
... this time including people who own and use guns on a regular basis? This research does not absolve the shooter of his crime. He flat ignored the instructions of the 911 responder and chose to shoot without provocation--hitting the victim in the back. This is simple, cowardly Murder by any and all definitions.
A quote by Maslow, "If the only tool you have is a hammer then you tend to see you problems as nails." In this case, if the only tool you have is a pistol then you tend to look for targets. It would be good to see the experiment repeated and also work out how aggressive are with or without a gun. It would also be good to see if there is a difference between experienced gun owners and neophyte gun owners. Stanley Milgram did an experiment to test obedience; he was trying to understand how the Germans could do the things they did during WWII. The experiment had two groups, teachers and students. The teacher would tell a student, who was in a separate room but visible through a window, information and have the student repeat it back. If the student makes a mistake then the teacher would press a button and administer an electrical shock, the more mistakes the higher the voltage was set. The students were actors and pretended to be shocked. The teachers were led to believe that it was chance that they were teachers and could have been students. The point of the experiment was to see at what point the teachers would continue shocking and increasing the voltage (the meter showed clearly a dangerous and lethal level) would stop. The scary part was that a majority of people would knowingly administer a shock that they were sure was lethal on the say so of an authority. This is the experiment in a nut shell, the bok "Power oif Authority" by Milgram gives more details. The obedience factor that Milgram studied may also account for how the gun experiment worked.
Millions of people in this country own and some carry guns. That is what makes our enemies think twice about trying to move in on our freedoms! I would rather have a gun and not need it as.....
I would hate to have to control my environment and kill people that are killing others. And of course I wouldn't want to do anything if saw them in the act of kidnapping or rape either. pffft. Who wants to be responsible!? Next thing you know they'll want me to act like I'm part of the race of man! pfft
Was a shock for them that it went bang or that a bullet left the chamber at a lethal rate in the direction the gun was pointed?