Examining the role of threat in weapon focus : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)

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Breech, Andrea C.
Pickel, Kerri L.
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Thesis (B.?.)
Honors College
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The weapon focus phenomenon occurs when a weapon is present and a witness tends to focus more on the weapon than on any other stimuli in the environment. Although there is a fair amount of research, which suggests that the weapon focus effect does occur, there is not agreement as to why this phenomenon occurs. It has been proposed that threat, a precursor of arousal, may be the reason. Picket (1996) performed a study in which threat was manipulated and found that perceived threat did not have an effect. To further investigate the role of threat in weapon focus, this study increased the saliency of threat by having the subjects read a vignette, which increased their awareness of threat before watching a video. The results reinforced Pickel's findings that perceived threat does not cause the weapon focus effect.