A new study by researchers at UCLA have found that carrying a gun can make a person appear bigger to those around them.
The study was published on Wednesday in the journal PLoS One and found that not only do people “look” taller, they also appear more muscular.
The project was funded by the U.S. Air Force in an attempt to determine why people make the decisions they do when confronted by violent situations.
Project author Daniel Fessler, an evolutionary anthropologist and director of UCLA’s Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture tells the LA Times:
“Chickens and lizards and lots of other vertebrates have to face the problem: ‘When I encounter another chicken or lizard, do I advance against the opponent, do I retreat or do I try to appease them?’ ” Fessler said. “All things being equal, the bigger, stronger individual wins the conflict.”
Fessler and his team hypothesized that a person’s size and strength are represented by a rather simple image in the brain that evolved a long time ago to help us stay alive.
To test their theory scientists had hundreds of participants hold various objects from handguns and power drills to caulking guns. Participants were then asked to look at each person and choose one of six body types that appeared to best fit that persons body size.
In one of the groups experiments 628 people saw men holding .357-caliber handguns and they though the men were 5 feet, 10 inches tall on average, 2 inches taller than the men who were holding the caulking gun.
Men holding drills were also at the higher end of the scale, researchers believe that is because people believe holding the drill means being powerful although they were still half an inch shorter on average.
On average men holding guns were judged to be 17% taller than men carrying caulking guns.
The group may next have the muzzle of a gun pointed directly at study participants to see if their height and strength assessment changes.