Poster Session E, Monday, March 25, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Title: An Electrophysiological Study of the “Weapon Focus” Effect
Annabell Schulz1, Mei-Ching Lien2, Eric Ruthruff3; 1Oregon State University, 2Oregon State University, 3University of New Mexico
Studies of eyewitness testimony have consistently found a weapon focus effect: witnesses remember less about the perpetrator’s physical appearance when a weapon is involved in a crime scene. Some have argued that the “unusualness” of weapons within a context draws eyewitnesses’ attention away from the perpetrator (the unusual object hypothesis), whereas others have argued that weapons capture eyewitnesses’ attention automatically regardless of context because they are potentially dangerous objects (the automatic capture hypothesis). We tested these hypotheses using event-related potential measures of where people are attending: the N2pc. Participants searched the target display for a pre-specified face category (a chef vs a cop) and indicated its gender. This target display was always preceded by a cue display containing a gun and a whisk. An N2pc was elicited by the gun regardless of target context, suggesting that weapons capture attention because they are potentially dangerous, not because they are unusual.
Topic Area: ATTENTION: Other