Inconvenient truth or not, one thing’s for sure: George Zimmerman couldn’t have shot Trayvon Martin if he didn’t have a gun. But that’s not the logic in play in an article by the AP: “Holding a gun may make you think others are too.” The cautious yet inflammatory headline sets the tone for the piece, based on a “new” study by James Brockmole of the University of Notre Dame and psychologist Jessica Witt at Purdue University. The Journal’s lede lets you know that the paper doesn’t want to add fuel to the media stocked pyre onto which hundreds of thousands of people are ready to toss neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman for shooting supposed interloper Trayvon Martin . . .
No one knows what led a Florida neighborhood watch captain to shoot Trayvon Martin, a teenager carrying no weapon.
But a new study raises an intriguing question: Could the watch captain have been fooled into thinking the youth was armed in part because he himself was holding a gun?
In the study which was carried out well before the shooting, undergraduates at Notre Dame and Purdue glimpsed scenes of people holding objects and had to decide quickly whether the object was a gun. The results showed they were biased toward thinking so if they themselves were holding a toy gun, rather than a plastic ball. Just having a gun nearby didn’t make a difference, researchers found.
Stats? Methodology? Protocol? Link? Nope. That’s it. No Google-Fu I guess. Click here for Action Alters Object Identification: Wielding a Gun Increases the Bias to See Guns. See below for the experimental hardware.
Scandalously, the AP simply takes the paranoia-shaped ball and runs with it, straight into a controversy whose facts are already a matter of heated debate.
Brockmole said it’s possible that Zimmerman’s perception might have been skewed by being armed.
Race may have also played a role. Martin is black; Zimmerman’s family says he is Hispanic. Past research suggests that people can be more likely to perceive a poorly seen object as a gun if it’s held by a black person than by a white person, experts say.
Experts? What study? Methodology? Protocol? Link? Nope. Having introduced the idea that a gun-in-your-hand distorts your ability to correctly process visual information (surprise!) and linked it to racial prejudice with hearsay (surprise!), the AP then does the old “don’t think of a pink elephant” routine.
[Brockmole] said the work is not intended to support gun control, but it suggests that people should know that when they hold a gun “that might change how you’re going to interpret what’s around you.”
Ya think? And yet this piercing glimpse into the obvious opens an extremely dangerous new front for gun control advocates to exploit. As I’m on holiday (obviously), a member of TTAG’s crack team will deconstruct the study ASAP. Watch this space.