Tag Archives: fear

Guns and aggression

By, Adam K. Fetterman
A Supreme Court decision once again sparks debate of gun control. The Court decided that citizens have the right to keep guns in all states and cities in the United States challenging some strict gun bans, like those in the Chicago area, according to the Associated Press. Guns are one of the hot-button issues that always seem to lead to great division. Some proponents argue that it is their right to own and carry guns and therefore, want to exercise that right, while others proclaim they want guns for fear of victimization. Opponents of guns argue that guns cause more harm than good and sometimes fear the people that want guns for protection.

While there are some anecdotal instances when citizens carrying guns have resulted in positive outcomes, these are quite rare. However, there has been research on the negative effects of guns. For example, Klinesmith, Kasser, and McAndrew (2006) found that interacting with guns led to increases in testosterone and aggressive behavior in males. While the aggressive behavior in the experiment, adding hot-sauce to a cup of water, is not all that reflective of real-world aggression, the effects show some increase in the willingness to harm others. There are probably not many people that would promote getting rid of guns altogether, however, some questions need to be further researched. For instance, should states and cities be able to ban guns if the area is deemed particularly aggressive? What type of people cause a threat to safety if they have access to guns? And on the other side, what are the benefits to the presence of guns?

Justices extend gun owner rights nationwide, by Mark Sherman – Associated Press

Klinesmith et al. (2006). Guns, Testosterone, and Aggression: An Experimental Test of a Mediational Hypothesis. Psychological Science, 17, 568-571.

Why flee when you can fight: the counter-evolutionary practice of bullfighting

A bullfight conjures many images, such as cheering crowds, brave matadors, and rushing bulls. A bullfighter earns respect and attention because, unlike most of the population, he dares to step into the bullring and face a bull. In the process the bullfighter asserts control over the body and controls the innate response to run and instead seeks to fight the bull. So when a bullfighter decides to run from a bull instead of fight it, albeit a natural evolutionary response, it becomes a newsworthy event.

A news report shows a video of a bullfighter who, took the traditional evolutionary route and fled from an attacking bull. Although running from bulls is a common practice for bullfighters when in a pinch, this event was particularly important. The news report explains that the bullfighter had been gored the previous year. So, after almost getting gored again by the bull the bullfighter made a run for it. This time around the bullfighter thought it best to get out and stop fighting the bull—in effect ending his career as a bullfighter.

Matsumoto and Hwang (2010) explain that the context of a bull rushing toward an individual should elicit a host of evolutionary responses.  An emotion such as fear, manifesting itself as the bullfighter running from the bull, is part of a set of responses that occur. The fact that bullfighters train to control their fear and fight the bull, the authors argue, is part of an adaptive “open system” of emotional appraisal. Thus, making bullfighting possible as a counter-evolutionary practice. On the other hand, a bullfighter that takes the evolutionary route and runs is worthy of making the news.

See more: Fleeing Matador

Matsumoto, D. & Hwang, H.S. (2010). Judging faces in context.

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Texting and Scare Tactics

TextingA recent Welsh video that addresses the dangers of texting while driving has become an internet phenomenon with over 7 million views to date. The video, which will be shown in schools in this fall, features a teenager texting while driving, resulting in a graphic car crash that kills her passengers.

The creators of the ad argue that in order to capture the attention of teenagers, it is necessary for the video to be shocking and violent. However, some critics are skeptical about whether the ad will actually reduce the behavior, especially in the long-term. Health and social psychological research has looked extensively at the efficacy of fear arousing messages when it comes to changing behaviors.

In a recent article, Cameron and Chan (2008) discuss what persuasive elements may help in promoting health behaviors. It is commonly assumed that messages that evoke fear will prompt action; however, many studies have shown that highly evocative messages may actually lead to avoidance and fail to change behavior. In the health communication field, they find that fear arousing messages can be effective but only when coupled with other factors. For instance, when joined with an implementation plan, these messages have a better chance of changing behavior. Moreover, imagery may be effective in persuasive messages but only to the extent that it can directly relate the threat to the recommended plan of action.

While the commercial may be successful in garnering attention, ongoing research brings into question how effective it will be in terms of permanently changing behavior.

square-eye New York Times: Driven to Distraction

square-eye Cameron, L. D., & Chan, C. K. (2008). Designing Health Communications: Harnessing the Power of Affect, Imagery, and Self-Regulation.

Scared Stiff: Does Fear Motivate or Paralyze Us?

480px-Scared_Child_at_NighttimeIf you’ve seen the recent viral video discouraging us from texting while driving, or the quit-smoking commercials that feature surgeries showing organs damaged by smoking, then you may find yourself wondering if these gruesome images actually cause us to change our behavior?

Social psychologists have asked the same question and have found a variety of results. When considering the persuasiveness of a message we have to consider the message itself, the audience watching it, and the context in which it is delivered. Messages that have graphic images have been shown to be effective in producing behavior change, but only if there is a message attached to the images about what a person can do. For example, quit-smoking messages are more likely to produce a change in behavior if they are accompanied with information about smoking cessation programs or a phone number to call to get help.

In addition, characteristics of the audience have to be considered. Self-esteem has shown to be influential in determining whether a person will actually follow through on change, but it can depend on a variety of other factors as well.

Finally, we have to consider the context in which the message is received. Major catastrophic events, such as 9/11, can enact a variety of policies and changes that influence how we perceive messages. There are even more recent theories, such as Terror Management Theory, that suggest that making our own mortality salient can powerfully influence our behavior and attitudes.

Can you think of examples where threat, fear, and mortality are used as persuasive devices in order to motivate people to engage in a particular behavior? In what ways could politicians or healthcare providers, for example, make use of these findings?

square-eye £1.99 - small Tales from Existential Oceans: Terror Management Theory and How the Awareness of Our Mortality Affects Us All

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