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The Gunslinger Effect, Or Why You Might Want To Shoot Second In A Duel

There are several strategies you may use to stay alive in a battle. One: Since you aren't an aristocracy in 18th-century France, avoid engaging in a duel. Two: Have your second take the hit for you. 3. Permit the other person to point a gun at you and fire at you first.

Let's talk about option three, which isn't the most appealing.

Watching Western movies, physicist Niels Henrik David Bohr noted that the hero typically pulled his pistol second yet always killed the villain, who drew first. He proposed that it could be because our own started motions are slower than our reactions, rather than a theatrical ploy to make the good man appear even more virtuous. He thought that the one who reacts as soon as their opponent raises their pistol would, ironically, have the edge because they will be able to fire first.

The next day, Bohr accompanied his pals on a field trip to test the idea while taking a vacation from particle physics. Bohr prudently used toy cap pistols as a safety measure despite how terrifying it must be to hear the statement, "Hey Gary, I've got a theory about who dies first in duels and I want you to come outside".

The tale claims that Bohr always finished second but always triumphed by pointing and firing at his opponent before they could do the same to him.

Now, the phrase "anecdote" should be a huge warning sign in this case, together with the fact that Bohr always served as the reactor. It doesn't take a professor of any of the main disciplines to see that Bohr himself may be the variable; perhaps he was just very good at murdering but ended up in physics. There is no data or paper from Bohr's experiment because he wasn't doing a genuine experiment.

Other experts, however, have investigated the phenomena to determine whether there is any truth behind it.

"We wanted to know if there was evidence for these reactive movements being swifter than the equivalent proactive ones," The study's principal investigator, Dr. Andrew Welchman, a BBSRC David Phillips Fellow at the University of Birmingham, stated in a press release dated 2010.

"So we set up a competition between two people who were challenged to press a row of buttons faster than their opponent. There was no 'go' signal so all they had to go by was either their own intention to move or a reaction to their opponent -- just like in the gunslingers legend."


The researchers discovered that, on average, the participant who responded to their opponent's movement rather than starting their own movement during the assignment obtained a 21-millisecond speed advantage. The team discovered that accuracy in pushing the right buttons decreased, despite their belief that the reactor benefited in some way from this. Their judgement? Although having these reflexes might be helpful, they generally won't protect you from getting shot.

 "As a general strategy for survival, having this system in our brains that gives us quick-and-dirty responses to the environment seems pretty useful," Welchman said.


"21 milliseconds may seem like a tiny difference, and it probably wouldn't save you in a Wild West dual because your brain takes around 200 milliseconds to respond to what your opponent is doing, but it could mean the difference between life and death when you are trying to avoid an oncoming bus."


So why did Bohr find the opposite?


"He was probably just a very good shot."

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