Current Weather
The Spy FM

Bigger, Taller, Stronger: Guns Change What You See

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
April 16, 2012

A new study out of UCLA suggests that when people wield a gun, they don’t just feel bigger and stronger — it makes others think they are bigger and stronger.

In the study, survey participants were asked to look at pictures of a hand holding various items, including a power drill, a caulk gun, a large saw and a .45-caliber handgun. When asked to guess the height, size and muscularity of the men behind the pictures, people thought the gun-wielding hand models were consistently taller, bigger and more muscular than the rest.

Daniel Fessler, an anthropologist and head of the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture, was the study’s lead author. He tells NPR’s Audie Cornish that the study doesn’t measure people’s perceptions so much as it measures people’s representations, or “how they store and manage information in their heads.”

“What we’re trying to explore is the process that leads to decision-making in situations of potential violent conflict,” he says.

Fessler and his team believe that when people are faced with potentially violent conflict, they start forming a mental image of their adversary that includes features that could contribute to how dangerous they are.

“Then when it comes time to make a decision,” he says, “you don’t need to pay attention to all the information that contributed to the size and the shape of the image, you just pay attention to the image. If the image is small and non-muscular, then you might attack; and if the image is large and very muscular, then you retreat; and if the image is somewhere in between, then you negotiate or appease.”

Fessler says his research isn’t yet at a place where it can be used on the ground by people who encounter potentially violent situations on a daily basis, like servicemen or police officers. But it does contribute to understanding how people decide to attack — useful information if you ever find yourself in a violent conflict.

Fessler says his research also contributes to understanding the mindset of third-party observers. He explains that conflicts often have people watching from the sidelines, trying to decide which side to support, a decision that is in part influenced by who they think will win.

“If we have a way of better tapping into how they’re thinking about who’s going to win, then we have a way of forecasting which side those third parties are likely to take,” he says. “And frequently it’s the case that the decisions of those third parties are crucial in determining the outcome of the conflict.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

6PM to 6:30PM Marketplace

Marketplace

Hosted by Kai Ryssdal, award-winning Marketplace is public radio's daily magazine of business and economics.

Listen Live Now!

6:30PM to 7PM All Things Considered

All Things Considered

For two hours every weekday, All Things Considered hosts Robert Siegel, Michele Norris and Melissa Block present the program's trademark mix of news, interviews, commentaries, reviews, and offbeat features.

View the program guide!

7PM to 9PM The Oklahoma Rock Show

The Oklahoma Rock Show

The Oklahoma Rock Show filters through dozens of submissions a week to find the best in new local music. Ryan LaCroix is the host and mastermind behind the show and teaches at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO).

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center