In a gunfight, good guys die, too

In a gunfight, good guys die, too

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In a gunfight, good guys die, too


Why do the bad guys always get shot in when they’re the ones who reached for their guns first?

The Nobel laureate and quantum physicist Niels Bohr was so intrigued with the puzzle he came up with a theory: the one who draws second moves faster because he reacts without thinking.

Research by psychologists at Birmingham University has shown that Bohr was right, at least up to a point. Psychologist Andrew Welchman, said our brains seem to be wired up in a way that makes reactions faster than conscious thought.

“In our everyday lives, some of the movements we make come about because we decide to make them, while others are forced on us by reacting to events. Bohr’s suggestion reflects this everyday intuition. However, the research suggests that for gunslingers chivalry is not the secret to a longer life. Welchman’s study found that while a gunslinger moved faster when they drew second, the difference was on average only 21 milliseconds – too slow to beat someone who had already pulled a gun.

“You move faster if you draw second, but you’re still going to die,” Welchman said. “You’ll die satisfied that you were quicker, but that’s not much use to you.”

Some evidence for this is seen in people with Parkinson’s disease who can find intentional movements far more difficult than reactive ones. The study suggests it might be possible to develop strategies to ease movement in such patients.

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