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Does the Trigger Pull the Finger? An Experimental Test of Weapons as Aggression-Eliciting Stimuli

Desmond P. Ellis, Paul Weinir and Louie Miller, III
Sociometry
Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec., 1971), pp. 453-465
DOI: 10.2307/2786192
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2786192
Page Count: 13
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Does the Trigger Pull the Finger? An Experimental Test of Weapons as Aggression-Eliciting Stimuli
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Abstract

The Berkowitz and Le Page hyothesis that weapons elicit aggressive behaviour was tested under the following conditions. 104 subjects were given an opportunity to shock a student or policeman confederate after receiving no shocks, 2 shocks or 8 shocks. Some subjects delivered their shocks in the presence of weapons, others in the absence of weapons and still others in the presence of weapons obviously belonging to the policeman confederate. In this study weapons were found not to function as aggression-eliciting stimuli. Instead, for nonangered students given an opportunity to shock a student confederate, weapons inhibited aggressive behaviour. Weapons also tended to inhibit aggressive behaviour among angered students given an opportunity to shock the policeman confederate. Berkowitz' explanation of the weapon's effect is rejected in favor of an operant conditioning (discrimination learning) paradigm.

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