“Your Brain on Guns”

Statistics Square

My first impression of this story in Mother Nature News is that TTAG’s Charlie Hebdo simulation continues to pay off in spades, but a closer look reveals this to be perhaps the biggest piece of tripe I’ve seen in a while on the topic of guns. The media’s narrative on that simulation has already been dismantled by people far more expert than I. But this article promotes the idea that the mere presence of firearms drives aggressive behavior. Most of us, who actually own firearms, know this is patent nonsense. So what is it based on? It’s partially based on a 2006 study that showed that 30 men who interacted with guns as opposed to children’s toys would add more hot sauce to water that they thought someone else would drink. I shit you not. Too small a sample size, and insufficient control. Maybe just sitting there raises testosterone levels even more? Did you test that? What about interacting with a power tool? Or solving a puzzle? You’d need to do that to show whether there was really anything special about a weapon, or whether other objects or tasks affect testosterone levels in the same way. Did you control for weapons phobia? Perhaps the subject feared them, and I would imagine in men that fear drives testosterone levels.

The other major factor that this article relies on is the controversial “Weapons Effect,” which has never been reliably reproduced under controlled conditions. I suspect the 2006 study was an attempt to show replication, but the 2006 study is likewise scientifically flawed. Of course, the scientific problem with these studies doesn’t stop people and reporters who don’t like us, and don’t like what we do, to use this pseudoscientific nonsense to smear us.

h/t to Thirdpower

6 thoughts on ““Your Brain on Guns””

  1. I always make 2 points with people on this:

    1. The presence of a good guy with a gun does not guarantee a positive outcome, it just shifts the odds

    2. If you were in that office when this happened, would you want to have a gun or not?

  2. Ever since I got into guns, I’ve become less confrontational. I attribute this to the fact that thinking about self-defense has led me to consider conflict from end-to-end. What can be a minor argument to you could be a major argument to the other person, and it’s possible for things to unexpectedly escalate. Therefore, the best policy is to stay off that path as much as possible. I’ve always been polite, becoming a gun owner has reinforced the importance of the virtue.

    1. CarlosT,

      Of course this is anecdotal, but I have spoken to a number of people who have had that very same experience. Especially new CC permit holders. A few have even been surprised by their own reaction, having thought that they would react differently. I have yet, in all my years, to know a single person who have stated that they found themselves to be MORE aggressive.


  3. I’ve also noticed that this article refers to at least a couple of studies that have been debunked (or at least, proven too flawed to be meaningful) to try to make their point.

    To further complicate things, the study they focus on–handing people guns to check their testosterone–assumes (if I understand correctly) that the subjects don’t normally handle weapons. What happens to those people who own weapons, train with them, and are familiar with the principles of self defense (both in using your weapon, and in learning techniques to de-escalate situations)?

    I would imagine that someone who seldom encounters weapons will have a different reaction to them than someone who owns a gun and occasionally carries it, and that person would have a different reaction to them than someone who has had training.

  4. Mainstream media regularly accepts bogus studies. Remember when they provided anti-vax dimbulbs regular time and print?

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