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Research Article

Weapons Make the Man (Larger): Formidability Is Represented as Size and Strength in Humans

  • Daniel M. T. Fessler mail,

    dfessler@anthro.ucla.edu

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology and Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Colin Holbrook,

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology and Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Jeffrey K. Snyder

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology and Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Published: April 11, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032751

Reader Comments (2)

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A word from an actual member of the mythical "gun culture."

Posted by DJStuCrew on 28 Jun 2013 at 20:34 GMT

Personally, I question the motives of the researchers and find this kind of "research" offensive. If you look at police, soldiers and security people you'll certainly find your fair share of people on power trips, and I've known more than a few guys who size each other up by how many volts their cordless drills run on, I'd also say that they're the MINORITY. This type of study seems purposely produced and peddled to the non-gun-owning readership as just one more way to make we People of the Gun look subhuman. It's odd how I never hear comparisons made between a man's golf clubs and his genitalia/manhood/stature, but it is incessant when it comes to guns! But seriously, that's what guns are to a whole lot of guys: the equivalent of golf clubs. Or baseball gear. They're sporting equipment.

Nearly all of the hunters I know are concerned with the power of their rifles, not because of their "manliness," but because they want clean, humane kills and don't want to have to follow blood trails for 500 yards. (Their goal is sometimes referred to as DRT -- Dead Right There -- a clean shot where the animal just drops.) To me, that rings more of empathy than any sort of machismo.

When it comes to concealed carry, which I'm training now to instruct, a lot of the people in my class got their license AFTER they'd been robbed or mugged (which is a little too late if you ask me -- and don't forget abour rape; we had several women in those classes, too). Again, the macho blowhard is a rarity there. Students just want to stay alive, and none ever actually want to be in a gunfight. Some end up enjoying shooting, having discovered the sport via their CCW training. Still, others get their permit and never see a range again until they need the required hours to renew. To them, their gun(s) means nothing more to them than a tool that is used under the most dire and unpleasant of emergencies.

I otherwise have little to quibble about when it comes to how people who are holding a weapon appear to others. This is part and parcel of how the human brain works, and serves us well as a survival mechanism. Researchers need to be cognizant of how laypeople will interpret what they publish. (See the previous outstanding comment.)

No competing interests declared.