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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NPR Touts Study Claiming People More Likely to Pull Trigger if Target is Black

NPR posted this story Saturday night:
Are most people more likely to pull the trigger of a gun if the person they're shooting at is black?

A new meta-analysis set out to answer that question. Yara Mekawi of the University of Illinois and her co-author, Konrad Bresin, drew together findings from 42 different studies on trigger bias to examine whether race affects how likely a target is to be shot.

"What we found is that it does," Mekawi tells NPR's Arun Rath. "In our study we found two main things: First, people were quicker to shoot black targets with a gun, relative to white targets with a gun. And ... people were more trigger-happy when shooting black targets compared to shooting white targets."

That is, shooters weren't just faster to fire at black targets; they were also more likely to fire at a black target.
My gut told me there was something screwy about this, and it turns out my gut was right. Nick Leghorn out over on The Truth About Guns dug in to the meat of the "study" and found it did not even involve people actually shooting targets.  First, for those who are like me and are not familiar with "meta-analysis," here is Longhorn's definition:
...it's when psychology students come up with ridiculous premises for studies (typically designed to appeal to their liberal professors and get as much publicity as possible), and then professors coerce their students to participate in exchange for class credit. So right off the bat the premise of the research is fairly biased, as the entire point is to be as controversial as possible.

For this specific study no actual direct observation was done. Instead, the researchers simply gathered up about fifty different studies and directly compared their results. As the researchers themselves admit, the results weren’t always the same.
Now, to the part about not actually shooting targets, participants were placed at a computer and asked to hit two different buttons (“shoot” and “no shoot”) depending on what they saw. This begs the question, "isn't there a psychological difference between pressing a button and actually pulling a trigger?"  I did not take psychology in college but Longhorn did, and he confirms that it's the only thing he does remember, and that there is a difference, thus, there is no 1:1 correlation between what was being tested and what the “researchers” claimed:
That’s like asking someone to choose between a banana and an apple for dinner and claiming that choosing a banana proves they are a racist.
Finally, only one of the studies included in this "analysis" had an average participant age of 21 or older.  So, not only were the vast majority of the participants too young to purchase a handgun in the first place, but would also not likely be your average police officer. So, they did not even study the populations for which they were trying to draw conclusions.   It's just another example of cherry picking data and studies that align with a bias against guns and gun owners.

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