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  • When a gun is not a gun

    The New York Times - 04/17/2015

    The Justice Department recently analyzed eight years of shootings by Philadelphia police officers. Its report contained two sobering statistics: Fifteen percent of those shot were unarmed; and in half of these cases, an officer reportedly misidentified a “nonthreatening object (e.g., a cellphone) or movement (e.g., tugging at the waistband)” as a weapon.

    Many factors presumably contribute to such shootings, ranging from carelessness to unconscious bias to explicit racism, all of which have received considerable attention of late, and deservedly so.

    But there is a lesser-known psychological phenomenon that might also explain some of these shootings. It’s called “affective realism”: the tendency of your feelings to influence what you see — not what you thinkyou see, but the actual content of your perceptual experience.

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