To Certain White American Males, a Gun is an Important Symbol

Unraveling the psychology behind gun ownership may offer fresh insight into the gun control debate.

Credit: Getty Images.

The gun debate, like many in the US, seems split straight down the liberal-conservative divide. In reality, there’s a lot of gray area in terms of opinions out there, far more perhaps than the media lets on. And yet, even after a rash of horrific mass shootings, the country seems deadlocked on the issue of gun control, once again.

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The Neuroscience of Why People Won’t Budge on Their Beliefs

When it comes to climate change, gun control, and vaccinations, facts don’t change people’s minds—but there is one technique that might.

If you want someone to see an issue rationally, you just show them the facts, right? No one can refute a fact. Well, brain imaging and psychological studies are showing that, society wide, we may be on the wrong path by holding evidence up as an Ace card. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot and her colleagues have proven that reading the same set of facts polarizes groups of people even further, because of our in-built confirmation biases—something we all fall prey to, equally. In fact, Sharot cites research from Yale University that disproves the idea that the social divisions we are experiencing right now—over climate change, gun control, or vaccines—are somehow the result of an intelligence gap: smart people are just as illogical, and what's more, they are even more skilled at skewing data to align with their beliefs. So if facts aren't the way forward, what is? There is one thing that may help us swap the moral high ground for actual progress: finding common motives. Here, Sharot explains why identifying a shared goal is better than winning a fight. Tali Sharot's newest book is out now: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals about Our Power to Change Others.

What American Founding Fathers Really Thought About Guns

Their thoughts were more complex than either side of the gun control / gun rights issue acknowledges.

The Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

America’s “founding fathers” led an armed population against the British monarchy and won. It is understandable that they saw the way the country was founded as an example of how it should be organized. They were fighters who wanted the ability to keep fighting to preserve their independence. And thus we got bearing arms as a cornerstone American right.

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