Memory is the Weapon

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Pickel Memory Volume 6, - Issue 3. Published online: 15 Oct Jerry I.

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Shaw et al. Published online: 1 Jul Pickel et al.

Published online: 30 Nov Jonathan M. Fawcett et al. Published online: 12 Nov Kerri Pickel et al. Several studies support the notion of weapon focus in particularly in terms of the greater attention paid to the weapon and its effects on the recognition and recall. In the field of forensic psychology , researchers have validated the weapon focus effect and shown that a witness will remember less about a crime, or the perpetrator of a crime, when a weapon is present, as opposed to if the weapon is not present at an identical crime.

As for the reason the phenomenon occurs, the two leading explanations attribute it to the cognitive arousal of the witness, or to the overall unusualness of the situation.

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In one of the earliest known investigations of weapon focus, Johnson and Scott had two groups of participants come into what they thought was a laboratory study of human memory. In actuality they were to take part in a simulated interaction intended to determine whether the presence of a weapon would influence eyewitness memory for an event.

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Participants in the control condition sat in a waiting room where they overheard a conversation between two people following which a man exited with greasy hands and a grease pen. In the weapon condition participants sat in the same waiting room, but instead they heard a violent argument — including furniture being thrown around — following which a man came out holding a blood-stained knife.

In , initially Loftus postulated that it is an expected occurrence in the event where an individual is highly aroused such as the case of a frightening situation.

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For this reason much of the research conducted on the weapon focus effect has made use of videos or slide shows. In the control condition the man presented a cheque to the cashier whereas in the weapon condition the man presented a gun. Specialized equipment tracked the participant's gaze as they viewed the video to determine with what frequency and for how long they fixated upon the item of interest the cheque or the gun. Relative to the control condition, participants in the weapon condition looked at the item the man was holding more frequently and for greater duration.

Robin Rhode: Memory Is the Weapon

Further, when tested for the details of the event, performance was better for the control condition relative to the weapon condition - with the exception that participants in the weapon condition were more likely to recall what object the man was holding a gun. Since the initial research conducted by Johnson and Scott and Loftus et al. For example, Pickel demonstrated an effect comparable to weapon focus using a video in which a man approached a cashier and presented a whole raw chicken or miniature Pillsbury Dough Boy instead of an expected item such as a wallet.

From her finding, Pickel argued that the weapon focus arose from the unusual nature of the object in the relation to the context in which it was presented. The relative contributions of arousal and unusualness remains one of the primary theoretical issues in this literature, with some authors arguing for a contribution of both. Additionally, the weapon focus effect is shown to weaken with 'black' perpetrators in comparison to 'white' perpetrators, and that the weapon focus effect is not significant when a "Black perpetrator wore a style of clothing that is strongly associated with Black men".

It is suggested that individuals who observe a black perpetrator who is armed automatically activates a stereotype that links black men with weapons and crime. As a consequence, reduces the unusualness of the weapon and increases the likelihood of attracting attention [9].

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Another significant challenge to the weapon focus effect has been its ecological validity. Specifically, many theorists have argued that the effect is limited to the laboratory.

These claims have been supported by the relative absence of applied evidence supporting the effect. Several reports have been published looking for evidence of a weapon focus effect using records of actual criminal events. According to the laboratory findings summarized above, the prediction had been that eyewitness memory would be worse for weapon crimes compared to non-weapon crimes. Many of the primary studies failed to support this prediction.

This finding supports the laboratory studies conducted on this topic.

Robin Rhode | Contemporary Art | Hatje Cantz

On the other hand, a study published in found the opposite when confronted with weapon focus since it found that the exposure to firearms was associated with significantly better eyewitness descriptions especially regarding basic features such as gender, height, build, age, and ethnicity. Why weapon focus occurs has been described a couple different ways.

  • The weapon focus effect on memory for female versus male perpetrators: Memory: Vol 17, No 6.
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The first is the "automatic capture" explanation. This suggests that the attention paid to a weapon is automatic and unintentional. Chairs, bicycles, and beds become performative drawing instruments—an instrumentalization of the Readymade.

Juhan Kuus — Memory as a weapon

The expressive drawings resulting from his energetic performances stand in contrast to the perfected illusionism and the intended lightness of his elaborate wall pieces. Robin Rhode reduces complex, at times even socially critical or analytical content to a few visual signs or, as he puts it, simplifies chaos with the means of art. After the exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich in , the presentation at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is the first solo exhibition in Germany since twelve years.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog in German and English, including a preface by Andreas Beitin, an extensive interview with Robin Rhode and an introduction by Uta Ruhkamp. Director Dr. Andreas Beitin and curator Dr. Uta Ruhkamp.

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