A Gun in Hand Makes a Man Look Taller

A Gun in Hand Makes a Man Look Taller

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The weapon may not make the man, but it certainly makes him loom larger, according to a new study by a team of UCLA researchers. Their study, part of a larger project to understand human decision-making in potentially violent situations and published in the journal PLoS ONE, shows that a person holding a gun seems taller and more muscular in the viewer’s mind than a person holding a tool or other object.

Countless creatures, humans among them, fight among their own kind for resources such as food and mates, and generally speaking, the bigger, stronger individual wins out. The more intelligent a creature, the more involved its threat assessment gets. Our own species is big on wielding weapons. But despite our complexity, many factors that go into assessing a threat in our species might be represented in a very simple and primitive way in the brain: simply as an image of the person’s size and strength. In other words, our threat assessment operates through a system in the brain that evolved long ago and is likely shared by many other animals.

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