A Twist on the Weapons Focus Effect

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psi Theory

A friend of mine (Terri) recently drew my attention to the what I believe is known as the ‘Weapons Focus Effect’, this basically says that if an eye-witness is in a situation where they are threatened by the presence of a weapon then it may hinder their ability to clearly identify the person holding said weapon. Fundamentally our focus is more on the threat of the weapon when we are in the scenario which then makes us less likely to have an accurate identification of the person that holds the weapon.

Terri explained an experiment where the subjects (if memory serves me well) were asked to queue outside a room, they then heard a very heated violent sounding argument from within the room, then a man would exit the room and walk off. On the first occasion the first group would see him holding a pen, but the second group would see him holding a bloody envelope knife.

Both groups were then asked to identify the man from a group of fifty (I believe). Unsurprisingly the group that saw him exit with a pen scored better that the group that saw him exit with the bloody envelope knife.

Of course this got me thinking… Those that know me, would say ‘shocker’ at this point lol.

So, first stop google for a quick piece of research. I soon found a page ‘A2 Psychology Revision‘ that kind of backs this up. The page explained that we focus more on the weapon rather than the person holding it during a crime, which in turn affects the reliability of the eye-witness account. The page also outlined a similar experiment, see the link above. In which 36 students from the University of Washington were split into two groups (control and experimental) and shown 18 slides of a queue. In the control group a man pulled a cheque book out, but in the experimental group he pulled a gun. Participants were given a line up of photos to identify the man. The results were interesting to say the least, 39.8% correctly identified the man in the cheque condition, but only 11.1% in the gun condition.

So, by now you’re probably wondering why this interested me so much and how the heck am I going to liken this to paranormal field? Excellent question, I will be right back!

Essentially when I heard of this from my friend (thank you by the way you know who you are), I immediately thought of the scenario that we often Ghost Hunt in. That’s a darkened building, limited light, searching for unseen entities some of which could be considered not particularly nice too. So, effectively I was seeing a haunted location as a probable ‘loaded gun’, we enter the location fixated on the possible dangers sometimes. Even though many investigators are skilled and used to the ‘haunted house’ environment now, it’s still essentially a place that heightens our adrenaline. I like many quite enjoy a good ghost hunt at times too, so know that I’m probably equally excitable when in this situation.

So, with all this in mind, stepping back a little and thinking about things a little, is it not reasonable to think that it may be possible that the ‘weapons focus effect’ could equally be implemented during a paranormal investigation. Thus our true perception of an investigation could be impaired, biased or worse.

Our focus is on the ‘weapon’ or the haunted location during the investigation, which means we are not seeking the true source of the information or communication. Hence we often identify communication at a location to be associated to its history, when in relative terms it’s often our interpretation of the information that makes that assumption.

I know this may be the spark for discussion, but that’s not a bad thing really. So, perhaps rather than approaching location-based investigations, we need to approach them with a slightly different understanding. I know that a lot of investigations have yielded results that related directly to the history of the location, but I find myself asking if those results are because we are already looking for something specifically related to the location in the first place. As far as Ghost Hunting is concerned I have done this personally myself, asked questions during EVP sessions directly related to local history. I’ve also investigated as a part of a team, asked questions related to the location, received responses (knocks, taps, raps) and we’ve associated those as a positive response to our questioning. Thus made the assumption that we were communicating with a spirit that was intelligent and linked to the location. Realistically this assumption is a heck of a leap!

Perhaps its time to remodel the approach we are taking currently when it comes to location-based investigation?

The question then becomes how to investigate moving forward without using a locations history as a recognised source to check information obtained during it? Alternatively how to obtain information without location history being an influence to start with?

It also places into question whether or not we are communicating with intelligent entities too or are we behind their intelligence ourselves by means of the way we associate random responses to our questions?

Of course this brings us full circle back to the hard problem; does human consciousness survive bodily death? Which is a massive question and perhaps one for a later date when I’ve completed a little more research.

My psi Theory posts are usually a bit of a ‘mind dump’ for all to read. I hope you enjoy them and please feel free to share your thoughts on them? I am sure there maybe some that perhaps agree, some that will disagree and some on the fence. Individuals opinions are important to me, so feel free to comment no matter your position. Let’s discuss it! I look forward to hearing from you all.

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