Does the Gun Pull the Trigger? Automatic Priming Effects of Weapon Pictures and Weapon Names

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Does the Gun Pull the Trigger? Automatic Priming Effects of Weapon Pictures and Weapon Names

Category: Behavior|Journal: Psychological Science (full text)|Author: A Benjamin, B Bartholow, C Anderson|Year: 1998

More than 30 years ago, Berkowitz and LePage (1967) published the first study demonstrating that the mere presence of a weapon increases aggressive behavior. These results have been replicated in several contexts by several research teams. The standard explanation of this weapons effect on aggressive behavior involves priming; identification of a weapon is believed to automatically increase the accessibility of aggression-related thoughts. Two experiments using a word pronunciation task tested this hypothesis. Both experiments consisted of multiple trials in which a prime stimulus (weapon or nonweapon) was followed by a target word (aggressive or nonaggressive) that was to be read as quickly as possible. The prime stimuli were words in Experiment 1 and pictures in Experiment 2. Both experiments showed that the mere identification of a weapon primes aggression-related thoughts. A process model linking weapons as primes to aggressive behavior is discussed briefly.

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