About this Project

This two-year project utilizes an innovative mixed-methods approach in which the researchers combine eye tracking and interviewing to better understand how people construct meaning from violent images. The project aims to explore the role of life experiences, such as exposure to community violence, as well as individual differences, such as trait empathy or aggression, on both visual and cognitive biases in perceptions of violence. The driving research questions are: 1) How do people make meaning from violent content? 2) How do people integrate the meaning constructed from violence into their existing cultural schema? 3) Can we predict the meaning that people extract and construct from a scene of violence based on how they direct their attention while viewing the scene? A better understanding of how visual biases interact with cognitive biases in viewing violence will lead to new research in several fields across disciplinary boundaries. Though this research methodology is grounded in psychology and neuroscience, the findings will also raise interesting research questions for scholars working in other social science disciplines and the visual arts. The project seeks to engage with these other disciplines by offering possible insights on such questions as: How does violence in a piece of art or film influence narrative, meaning-making, and understanding of the piece as a whole?

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