Beyond unusual? Examining the role of attention in the weapon focus effect

Lorraine Hope, D. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study examined whether the weapon focus effect could be accounted for in terms of stimulus novelty. Participants viewed a slideshow of a simulated event while attending to a secondary task. In the critical slide, the target was shown holding a threatening object (weapon condition), a novel object (unusual condition) or a neutral object (control condition). Reaction times on the secondary task were impaired in the weapon and unusual conditions. Participants in the weapon condition had poorest recognition scores for the target's appearance when confidence was also taken into account. Results suggest that while both unusual and threatening objects command attention, the significance of a weapon can lead to impaired performance on less immediately informative aspects of a scene such as target appearance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-961
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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