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People Holding Guns Believe Others Are Also Armed

Update Date: Dec 22, 2012 11:52 AM EST

A new study published by a Colorado State University researcher suggests that people armed with a gun perceive others also as being armed.

For the study, 217 students were asked to react to images on a computer screen. The participants were asked to determine if the person they could see on the screen was holding a gun or a neutral object like a wallet or a shoe. The most important manipulation in this study was that some of the participants were also holding a gun - in this case, a Wii gun, Medical Xpress reported.

It was found that the majority of students perceived the person on screen as holding a gun (when they were actually holding a shoe) while the participants themselves were holding a gun. However, this was not the case when the participants were holding a rubber ball.

The study was conducted by researchers Jessica Witt, while at Purdue University along with J.R. Brockmole at Notre Dame University. The study aimed at focusing on perception and action relationships.

"Your ability to respond influences what you see. Specifically when you can respond with a gun, that creates a bias to see guns," Witt said of the study results.

 "The results have theoretical implications for how perception and action interact," Witt said."This interaction, however, has negative consequences in the case of guns."

Witt also said, "For the most part, gun owners care about safety, they lock up guns, they're careful about who they let use their weapons. We think they're going to want to know other risks. In this case, another risk is a perceptual bias to see guns when they are holding a gun. Gun owners who care about safety will want to take safety precautions against this bias. We don't know what those are yet, but those need to be researched. "We hope that this research leads to safer gun use."

Witt now plans to look at whether this perceptual bias also exists in people who either play violent video games or own guns.

The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

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