You see a weapon in front of you, how do you react? How would you react if someone points a gun at you? How would you react if someone points a weapon at someone else?
We may try to imagine how our brain and body react in situations like this but in the end, we do not know until it happens.
We see guns ( Check Image )and violence in videos and movies all the time, we play computer games where the goal is to shoot people, we see the news where shootings are happening and fully armed people with gun holster holding their weapons commit a terroristic attack.
The field of social psychology is analyzing all the aspects of how we humans react in the presence of a weapon. The weapons effect is a controversial discussed theory where scientists examine how people behave when they see guns. The special focus is if aggression is indicated through weapons.
Nowadays many researchers criticized the theory because they describe most of the studies as not successful in proving the argument that a weapon creates aggression in a human. Instead, they propose other studies to describe alternative explanations. Researchers believe that there is never only one factor, there are various aspects that influence a situation where a person is confronted with a weapon. This can be the familiarity with weapons or the mental situation of the person.
The original study was done with 100 males who got 1 or 7 shocks. After this, they were told to give as many shocks as they wanted to the peer. Some of them had a gun in front of them while giving the shocks. Half of them the researchers told that the gun belongs to the peer.
The result showed that the men who got 7 shocks and were in the presence of a gun give more shocks. For the scientist, this was the proof of their hypothesis that weapons increase the aggressive behavior of a person
Later other researchers replicated and extended this study in different countries with various other stimuli that could affect the aggression level of a human.
In 1998 Craig Anderson connected the term “weapons priming effect” with the current weapons effect. He says that priming plays an important role in the weapons effect.
As the theory of the weapons effect receives a lot of criticism here are some of those aspects:
The original study from Berkowitz and LePage is described as very weak proved. Scientists claim that the study does not show representative results and furthermore, replications do not show the same results.
In the late 90s, there were numerous studies about the impact of firearms on different aspects like the probability that threatening situations escalated to a physical attack. All those Surveys are not correlative with the weapons effect. It is called the reverse weapons effect.
Another aspect that is majorly criticized is the real-world application. The weapons effect cannot be tested in the real world. The idealistic test set up does not show the reality with all its different stimuli and distractions that can affect how a person reacts in front of a weapon.