Is it Strange or is it Scary? Examining Salience and Arousal Explanations of the “Weapons Focus Effect”

Dominic Willmott

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There is a mass of research literature providing evidence for the ‘Weapon Focus’ effect which although traditionally accounted for in terms of an Arousal explanation, underpinned by Easterbrook’s (1959) Cue-Utilisation Hypothesis, recently research has favoured causation of such an effect in terms of a Salience explanation, understood in terms of Schematic memory structures. However, neither explanation as of yet has been able to conclusively disprove the other. In a study measuring the physiology and memory of participants, in conditions specifically designed to improve on past literatures methodological shortfalls, the effects of both explanations were meticulously separated out in an attempt to clearly investigate differences between them. Findings displayed that although differences emerged between memory scores and levels of physiological arousal between salience and arousal conditions, such were not to a significant extent. Methodological shortfalls within the current experiment and past research studies are thought to account for the failure to produce a weapons focus effect or further significant differences, however critical evaluation and deeper consideration of the current theoretical accounts identifies the inadequacy of these explanations, as well as future suggestions on how such might be improved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalInternet Journal of Criminology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017


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