The Science Effect

Inquiring Minds Podcast, “The Science of Gun Violence”

In episode 106 of the Inquiring Minds podcast, host Indres Viskontas interviews psychology and communications professor Brad Bushman about gun violence. The two talk about the ‘weapons effect,’ a social psychology research finding that demonstrates how the mere presence of weapons increases aggression and violent behavior. This topic bloats with urgency —  gun deaths outnumbered traffic deaths for the first time in 2015.

Inquiring Minds podcast takes a scientific approach to issues which elicit highly emotional responses and spark debates. These topics find no shortage of polemical voices, but discussions based on scientific findings are not occurring as ubiquitously. IM wants to make people more aware that this research is being done.

Bushman cites several studies that show the ‘weapons effect.’ A truck at a stoplight that stays put when the light turns green is more likely to provoke honking by the car behind it if the truck has a gun rack displaying an actual rifle. Counter-intuitive, right? And co-host Kishore Hari points out that with this evidence, the idea of a “responsible gun owner” becomes obsolete.

Viskontas, a neuroscientist and opera singer, is an investigative interviewer. She scrutinizes the science, the language and our assumptions. At the end she asks, “what’s the difference between violence and aggression?” 

The episode opened with a study on the habitual behavior formed in anorexia-nervosa, but it was brief and the podcast may benefit from only having one interview per episode. I believe Viskontas has a lot more to ask on each subject.

There are no effective treatments for anorexia, and the gun control debates are fiery and subjective. Increasingly, science glows on the horizon as a great hope; we have to look that way together. Inquiring Minds is like a science class with an earnest and sensitive guide, where you wouldn’t ask, why do I need to know this, because the voices there make it obvious.

By Kathleen Dolan

I studied writing and English at Purchase College in NY State and graduated from PSU with an English degree. I contribute content, edit, and brainstorm at THRU.

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