Firearms are one of the central flashpoints in American life, and yet the motivations underlying their ownership have been generally understudied by psychologists. In this paper, I review work from across the social sciences to model the psychological utility that people get from gun ownership. I propose the Coping Model of Protective Gun Ownership, arguing that those who own their weapon for protection are using their gun symbolically as an aid to manage psychological threats - to their safety, control, and sense of belongingness - that come from their belief that the world is a dangerous place and that society will not keep them safe. I discuss the ramifications of this coping strategy and present a research agenda for exploring this framework.
Perspectives on Psychological Science,
Which is more enjoyable: trying to think enjoyable thoughts or doing everyday solitary activities? Wilson et al (2014) found that American participants much preferred solitary everyday activities, such as reading or watching TV, to thinking for pleasure. To see whether this preference generalized outside of the United States, we replicated the study with 2,557 participants from 12 sites in 11 countries. The results were consistent in every country: Participants randomly assigned to do something reported significantly greater enjoyment than did participants randomly assigned to think for pleasure. Although we found systematic differences by country in how much participants enjoyed thinking for pleasure, these differences were fully accounted for by country-level variation in 5 individual differences, 4 of which were positively correlated with thinking for pleasure (need for cognition, openness to experience, meditation experience, and initial positive affect) and 1 of which was negatively correlated (reported phone usage).