Anderson, C.A., Benjamin, A.J., & Bartholow, B.D. (1998). 

Does the gun pull the trigger? Automatic priming effects of weapon pictures and weapon names. 

Psychological Science, 9, 308-314.


Over 30 years ago, Berkowitz & LePage (1967) published the first study demonstrating that the mere presence of a weapon increases aggressive behavior. This has 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) which was to be read as quickly as possible. The prime stimuli were words or pictures, in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively. 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 briefly discussed.

© 1997 by Craig A. Anderson

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