March 21, 2012 by David K. Sutton
Notre Dame Study: Holding A Gun Makes You More Likely To Believe Others Are Too
A new study by the University of Notre Dame shows that people who are holding a gun have an increased chance of believing someone else is also holding a gun. The study was conducted by Associate Professor of Psychology James Brockmole, who studies human cognition.
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.
Brockmole says, “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.”
This is an interesting study and it’s quite prescient given the recent slaying of an innocent and unarmed 17-year-old boy, Trayvon Martin. I believe this shooting, the Tuscon shooting as well as studies like the Notre Dame study can all be submitted as evidence we need smarter and better gun control in this country. It’s not about repealing the 2nd amendment, so don’t even go there. It’s about sensible and reasonable restrictions. We also should not have laws in this country, like Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, that make it easier for people to shoot another human being and possibly get away with it.