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a wall of guns in a store

Heaven to some // Image: Michael Saechang, Flickr

Lecture: The American obsession with guns: Why people buy guns and how they use them

October 5, 2018 — 

Professor Wolfgang Stroebe will deliver this year’s John Adair International Lecture at the University of Manitoba, which is hosted by the Department of Psychology. 

He will deliver his free, public lecture, “The American obsession with guns: Why people buy guns and how they use them”, on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, at 7: 30 p.m. in Rm 270 E3 of the Engineering and Information Technology Complex on the Fort Garry campus. A wine and cheese reception will follow the lecture (cash bar). All are welcome and no registration is required. 

His talk

Professor Wolfgang Stroebe

Professor Wolfgang Stroebe

The first part of his lecture will address a question often raised by the U.S. National Rifle Association in defense of gun rights: If the availability of guns in the U.S is responsible for the high homicide rate, why do other countries with high gun availability such as Switzerland or Canada have a relatively low homicide rate? In fact, Stroebe says, if one takes a random collection of countries and correlates homicide rates with number of guns, the correlation is likely to be zero. Stroebe will argue that this can be reconciled with the belief that easy access to guns contributes to homicide rates.

In the second part of his lecture he will address why gun ownership is so important for many Americans and particularly, why 67 per cent of gun owners report that they own their guns for self-defense. Given that gun ownership doubles the likelihood of being murdered and that trustworthy studies suggest that guns are used on less than 1 per cent of the cases of attack for self-defense, this association is indeed puzzling, Stroebe says. Thus, he will present a theory of defensive gun ownership he developed with colleagues (Stroebe, Leander & Kruglanski, 2017) and empirical data supporting that theory. He will also present some research they conducted with Canadian gun owners to address the question whether Canadian gun owners are fundamentally different from their American colleagues.

In the final part of his lecture he will talk about his study of attributions made by gun owners and non-owners about the causes of five recent mass shootings. His research results do not support the findings of opinion polls that mass shootings have changed the attitudes of many gun owners towards greater support for stricter gun laws. He will discuss reasons for this discrepancy.

About professor Stroebe

Wolfgang Stroebe is Emeritus Professor of social psychology at Utrecht University and now at the University of Groningen. He is a past president of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology and founding director of the Dutch Research Institute for Psychology and Health. He received the research award for outstanding scientific achievements concerning death and loss of the American Association of Death Counseling and Education in 2002, the Tajfel Award for outstanding scientific achievements and contribution to the development of social psychology of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology in 2005, the lifetime achievement award of the German Psychological Association and an honorary doctorate from the University of Louvain (Belgium) in 2002. He is a member of the German National Academy of Science, Fellow of APS (resigned), SPSP, BPS and SPSSI. He has authored numerous books, chapters and articles, and for 25 years was co-editor of the European Review of Social Psychology.

About the John Adair International Lecture

On John Adair’s retirement in 1999 and appointment as Professor Emeritus, the Department of Psychology at the University of Manitoba established a Lectureship in his name. Recognizing his membership on the executives of various  international psychology organizations, his chairing the program planning committee of the 1996 International Congress of Psychology and his research on and assistance to the development of psychology in less-advantaged countries around the world, the lectureship is designed to bring to the department distinguished psychologists from countries outside of Canada or the United States, thereby enriching the annual department colloquia program. In its first several years the Department has been host to the following:

  • 2017: Dr. Colleen Ward, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • 2015: Fons van de Vijver, Tillburg University, Netherlands
  • 2013: Dr. Michael Harris Bond, Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • 2007: Dr. Shalom Schwartz, Dept. of Psychology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • 2004: Dr. Peter B. Smith, Dept. of Psychology, University of Sussex
  • 2002: Ype H. Poortinga, Tilburg University, Netherlands

This lecture is sponsored by the John Adair International Lecture Fund, the Distinguished Visiting Lecturer Fund, Department of Psychology, the Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts, and Centre on Aging.


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