Action alters object identification: wielding a gun increases the bias to see guns

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2012 Oct;38(5):1159-67. doi: 10.1037/a0027881. Epub 2012 Apr 16.

Abstract

Stereotypes, expectations, and emotions influence an observer's ability to detect and categorize objects as guns. In light of recent work in action-perception interactions, however, there is another unexplored factor that may be critical: The action choices available to the perceiver. In five experiments, participants determined whether another person was holding a gun or a neutral object. Critically, the participant did this while holding and responding with either a gun or a neutral object. Responding with a gun biased observers to report "gun present" more than did responding with a ball. Thus, by virtue of affording a perceiver 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 (raising a firearm to shoot). In addition to theoretical implications for event perception and object identification, these findings have practical implications for law enforcement and public safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Fear / psychology
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult