A psychological study recently concluded that drivers with a gun in the car drive more aggressively than drivers who don’t.
This news flies in the face of experience by most gun owners who routinely travel with all manner of firearms yet do so in a normal, sane way. I know that I drive the same way regardless of whether I’m armed. The only way my driving differs at all is when my kids are riding with me, in which case I take a bit more caution.
Yet science seems to indicate otherwise. How can science be so wrong?
Well, as Nick Leghorn at The Truth About Guns points out, it’s not all that difficult.
The study makes its conclusions based on the observations of 60 “random” people. Not necessarily the best sample size from a statistical perspective. But wait, it gets worse.
As is often the case in psychology experiments, the subjects were university students — most likely drawn from the never-ending pool of Psych 101 attendees required to participate in such studies for credit.
College students a poor choice for this study, given their under-developed decision making capabilities. Liberal arts students in particular tend to have had significantly less exposure to firearms and the safety culture surrounding them.
This is a group that’s most likely to join anti-gun movements and rely on “blood in the streets” arguments for their opinion that gun owners are unstable and can’t be trusted with firearms. A classic example of projection, according to some gun rights supporters.
In contrast, gun owners tend to be a self-selecting group who believe in taking responsibility for one’s own actions and defense.
The sample size alone makes this study almost meaningless.
When constructing a study, a large sample size is the best way to get rid of any statistical “noise.” After all, people are individuals and have their own individual traits. In a small sample size of 30 people—remember that the observations here are based on 60 total, which means half were assigned to each group—it only takes three people sharing some quirk that would skew the results.
In this case, when coupled with Nick’s other observations about the probable subjects, to call the findings “conclusive” would be like saying Madonna is a woman of grace and virtue.
What wasn’t studied were actual gun owners. You know, the people who generally drive with a firearm in the car? Why not take a look at how folks like us drive?
Then again, maybe that was by design.
After all, psychology is considered a social science, and social science departments are rife with activist students and academics looking to push an anti-gun line any chance they get. They don’t get that being a gun owner is more than just putting a gun in someone’s possession. Many gun owners never carry a firearm much of anywhere except hunting or the range, while many of us carry on a daily basis.
Further, the more immersed in the gun culture you find someone, the less likely they will act aggressively, either behind the wheel or in general. We tend to understand that if we are the cause of an altercation that results in the loss of life, we may well be prosecuted for it. As a result, even if armed, we make it a point to not do anything that could be taken as someone else as provocation.
Not that a psychology department as a university would be expected to understand that.