December 14, 2018

A Culture That Glorifies Violence

Dara Barlin, founder Dynamic Action Research Education Consulting

We are missing a critical question in the conversation about guns: Why do people want to own them?

Brain science offers an answer.

Scientists and advertising executives agree that a product must make about seven impressions in the brain before people want to buy that product. Now think about the number of impressions we receive from action movie heroes and TV detectives using guns to “save the day.” It’s rampant. After watching one “CSI” episode, I saw 10 gun impressions alone. If a person watches an episode a week for 20 years, that’s more than 10,000 impressions! And nearly all gun-toting protagonists are well respected, charismatic and sexy.

This constant barrage of images tricks some brains into thinking that buying or using a gun makes a person more like a fictional character — revered, desirable, heroic. I remember watching “The Matrix” when it came out in 1999, wishing I could pack a Glock and take on the world — never wanting to hurt anyone, but wanting to emulate the cool character Trinity.

In addition to legislation, we must work with influencers to create a culture that does not glorify violence. We need to take responsibility for the violent images disseminated in our culture’s most accessible mediums: film, television, advertising and video games. Once we take steps to reshape cultural messaging around guns, we can reduce the desire for these weapons and contribute to a safer world.