Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 55–62 | Cite as

Some facts about “weapon focus”

  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
  • Geoffrey R. Loftus
  • Jane Messo


“Weapon focus” refers to the concentration of acrime witness's attention on a weapon, and the resultant reduction in ability to remember other details of the crime. We examined this phenomenon by presenting subject-witnesses with a series of slides depicting an event in a fast-food restaurant. Half of the subjects saw a customer point a gun at the cashier; the other half saw him hand the cashier a check. In Experiment 1, eye movements were recorded while subjects viewed the slides. Results showed that subjects made more eye fixations on the weapon than on the check, and fixations on the weapon were of a longer duration than fixations on the check. In Experiment 2, the memory of subjects in the weapon condition was poorer than the memory of subjects in the check condition: In Experiment 1 similar, though only marginally significant, performance effects were obtained. These results provide the first direct empirical support for weapon focus.


Social Psychology Empirical Support Performance Effect Check Condition Resultant Reduction 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
    • 1
  • Geoffrey R. Loftus
    • 1
  • Jane Messo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattle

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