Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rifle emoji removal is a good first step

I am just getting back from AP reading, so am still trying to catch up on a number of items. This recent news article certain caught my attention - the next generation of emojis for your mobile phone will not include a rifle. As an aggression researcher with some expertise in the priming effect of weapons (see a recently published summary of weapons priming research I coauthored with Brad Bushman, for example), this is a welcome development. There is ample evidence that the mere exposure to a weapon (such as a rifle) will prime aggressive thoughts, hostile appraisals, and aggressive behavioral responses (both physical and non-physical). Right now I and Bushman have a meta-analysis under review that offers a comprehensive summary of the available published and unpublished research. Without going into the specifics of the meta-analysis (simply due to not wanting to publish original research on a blog), what I can say is that if one were to look up the numerous reports available, there is a clear causal link between weapon exposure and aggression (including cognitive and appraisal responses). In fact, aggression researchers have been well aware of this link for decades, and we have tried as best we can to make our findings as known to the public as possible. Although I seriously doubt a rifle emoji would be the trigger for a mass shooting, I would expect that individuals exposed to such emojis would show an uptick in aggressive thoughts, appraisals, and what I think of as mundane aggressive behaviors. I'm in favor of preventing negative behaviors if at all possible. One thing to point out is that you can still find pistol, weapon-like knife, and toy gun emojis - and the available evidence would suggest that these too would be as prone to prime aggression as the rifle emoji in question. The author of the article is clearly incorrect in dismissing the aggressive priming influence of a toy gun.

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