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

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

Category: Behavior|Journal: Journal of Expiremental Psychology (full text)|Author: J Brockmole, J Witt|Year: 2012

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.

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