Holding a gun may or may not make you feel bigger. But apparently it makes you look so.
That’s the conclusion of a study published in the online journal PLoS ONE.
“Danger really does loom large—in our minds,” said lead author Daniel Fessler, director of UCLA’s Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture.
As part of Fessler’s study, 628 people looked at photographs of four different male hands, each of which grasped a single object: a caulking gun, electric drill, large saw, or handgun. They were then asked to estimate the height of each hand model.
Although all the models were, in fact, roughly the same size, participants judged those holding the guns to be taller and stronger than the others. The danger signaled by the gun apparently implanted the notion of strength and power, which translated into a mental image of a larger, more muscular man.
This is the second recent study suggesting that firearms can fuzz up our thinking process. One released last month found that holding a gun makes a person more likely to believe others they encounter are armed.
Gun sales are booming, which means more guns on the streets, which means—we now know—there are even more people out there having their perceptions skewed.