The Dangers of Linking Gun Violence and Mental Illness
By Megan L. Ranney and Jessica Gold
After repeated exposure to a piece of information, people will start assuming it’s true, whether or not it actually is, simply because they’ve heard it so many times. Familiarity and repetition can overcome rationality, a phenomenon psychologists call the “illusory truth effect.”
In a 24-hour period during the first weekend of August, two mass shootings—one in El Paso, Texas and the other in Dayton, Ohio—left 31 people dead and 53 injured, as of writing. In between “calls for action” and the need for “thoughts and prayers,” legislators across the political spectrum, ranging from Democratic presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang, to Republicans like the Governor of Texas and President Donald Trump, were quick to assign blame to mental illness—despite ample evidence that gun violence is not a mental health problem.