Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Shooting Guns Addictive?

Steven Kotler writes an op-ed with neuroscientist James Olds. They suggest that shooting guns might be addictive:
Dopamine shows up when we take a risk—and firing a gun is always a risk. It shows up when we encounter something novel and since guns blow things up, well that usually pretty novel. If you’re serious about your guns and use them for target practice or hunting, well that requires pattern recognition and this increases dopamine as well.

Are there direct correlations? Has anyone yet done a PET or MRS scan (the only ways to screen for dopamine in the brain) of people just leaving a firing range? Not that we can tell (though we’ll outline this and a few possible areas of research in a moment). We do know, from copious amounts of video game research, that first person shooter games release dopamine, and this has been linked to everything from learning and rewards to ideas about violence and harm to winning and motivation.

What does all of this really mean? It means that the reason gun violence continues to rise (and the reason gun control legislation remains so hard to pass) is because we are quite literally addicted to our guns.

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