Before the tragic shooting of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, researchers from the University of Notre Dame and Purdue had been looking into how gun-holders perceive their surroundings differently from those who are not armed.
Researchers found that holding a gun makes that person more likely to mistake seeing a gun in the hands of another person.
In the study, which will be published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, subjects held toys guns or a ball while they were shown computer images of people holding either a real gun or an innocuous object like a soda can or a cell phone.
Volunteers totting a gun were more likely to see a gun onscreen. The results were the same when researchers changed the race and clothing of the people on the computer.
“Now we know that a person’s ability to act in certain ways can bias their recognition of objects as well, and in dramatic ways,” James Brockmole, an associate professor of psychology at Notre Dame told ScienceDaily.
Although the police report does not mention whether George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watch man who shot Martin, thought the teen was holding a weapon, Brockmole told the AP, “it’s possible that Zimmerman’s perception might have been skewed by being armed.”
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