DHS Study: You Can Find Weapons If You Believe They Exist

We have a brand new reason to laugh at TSA after their debacles last month. Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security has funded a study that tells us that humans have not adapted to finding things that do not exist.

Put simply, subjects in a study were asked to examine “checked baggage” for dangerous objects. When a gun or knife showed up about 50% of the time, the subjects did fairly well, only missing the weapons 7% of the time. However, when the prevalence of weapons became less in another trial, subjects missed them about 30% of the time. Conclusion: If airport screeners do not expect to find something offending in your bag, they probably won’t, since they’re deterred from looking as hard.

As a result of this study, we can probably conclude why TSA is only so happy to treat every passenger like a potential terrorist, including an eight-year old kid who just cannot get his name off the no-fly list. Not being psyched-up enough for the hunt could lead to potential failure to capture people that want to harm the United States. But positively thinking that everyone is a terrorist carrying weapons will help us keep America safe and secure, right?

Researchers also noted that this human trait of not finding a needle in a haystack is a result of evolution, and that overcoming this trait is not a simple matter of pushing people to look harder. Human minds will not forage for food in a place that has never borne them fruit and focus on places that have in the past. That just makes common sense.

I guess as a result of this study, Homeland Security needs to employ less evolved screeners who are prone to stereotyping. Maybe they already do, which would certainly explain a lot. Beware, some combination of your shampoo and conditioner might also resemble a gun.

Do you feel safe now?

Photo Credit: Crys

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