In sad, befuddling news, a study has shown that people estimate that a person holding a gun is bigger than someone holding another object. Oh, and knives are womanly. Find out what your choice of weapons says about you.

A study conducted by UCLA scientists and funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research asked people to fill out questionnaires about the size and strength of someone holding a gun versus someone holding a caulking gun, electric drill, or large saw. They asked them to do this while only showing pictures of the hand of the holder. All the hands were of white male hand models with hands approximately the same size and no visible marks or tattoos. Despite nearly all the other objects requiring more strength to use than a gun, the hands holding guns were estimated to belong to individuals seventeen percent larger and stronger than anyone else pictured.


The extreme traditional manliness of the rest of the tools was deliberate, since researchers didn't want the results to be skewed by the delicious masculinity of a weapon that allows a person to murder people with little effort well before they can get close enough to fight back. The subjects estimated that the gun holders were largest, followed by the saw, which, as it only provided a blade with which to hack people to pieces, was less manly. Next came the electric drill, since that generally requires a power cable. Finally, the caulking gun, presumably because it is very difficult to caulk an unarmed opponent to death.

Researchers were worried, since often the people who least need guns - giant hulking and strongly muscled Hollywood actors playing thugs - are the most often shown holding them, and that might skew the results. They next took gave subjects pictures of a toy squirt gun, a paint brush, and a knife, and asked them which sex they associated the objects with. The knife was associated with a woman, the other two objects with men. When shown pictures of male hands holding the objects, the subjects again arranged the holders from most to least deadly, the knife, the paintbrush, and finally the squirt gun.

Researchers believe that this overestimation of size and strength is our survival instinct trying to assert itself in the modern world. It seems that our unconscious minds are trying to stress the threat of each object by assuming whoever holds it is tougher to beat in a fight. "Forget trying to mess with this guy," our brains say. "Freeze, play dead, or run. And hope that he's just misplaced his caulking gun somewhere."


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