In visual displays, people locate potentially threatening stimuli, such as snakes, spiders, and weapons, more quickly than similar benign stimuli, such as beetles and gadgets. Such biases are likely adaptive, facilitating fast responses to potential threats. Currently, and historically, men have engaged in more weapons-related activities (fighting and hunting) than women. If biases of visual attention for weapons result from selection pressures related to these activities, then we would predict such biases to be stronger in men than in women. The current study reports the results of two visual search experiments, in which men showed a stronger bias of attention toward guns and knives than did women, whether the weapons were depicted wielded or not. When the weapons were depicted wielded, both sexes searched for them with more caution than when they were not. Neither of these effects extended reliably to syringes, a non-weapon—yet potentially threatening— object. The findings are discussed with respect to the “weapons effect” and social coercion theory.
|Number of pages||19|
|Publication status||Published - 2014|