What is Cue Theory?
Cue theory suggests that perception is based on the combination of sensory data in the form of cues and cognitive processing. It is a conceptually driven or "top down" process that relies on the knowledge and experience found in the mind of the perceiver (Allard, 2004). The mind will go beyond the information that is given to create a familiar image or pattern, demonstrating that the power of perception is greater than that of sensation.
Top down processing is generally observed in visuall illusions where two patterns are perceived in one, or where a pattern is perceived in one with no obvious features. The mind will pick up on available cues and fill in the blanks to perceive an image or pattern that is not necessarily there. This happens without the conscious effort of the perceiver and is described as an "unconscious inference" (Allard, 2004). It is this summation of cues to form an incorrect perception that often leads to the phenomenon of "mistaken for game".
What is "Mistaken for Game"?
Mistaken for game is when a hunter is shot because he/she was incorrectly identified as prey by another hunter. This happens when hunters neglect to clearly identify their target and then "seem to shoot at shape, sound or colour" (Carnachan, 2003) which Green (2003) also describes as snapshooting; when shooters see a target, perceive it as prey and fire within one continuous movement.
Cue theory is present in these situations because "the eye sees something and in a flash the brain fills in the missing pieces" (Carnachan, 2003). Victims will enforce the incorrect identification by moving through the bush like and imitating the sounds of the prey. Often when one hunter shoots another, it is a result of the victim having been acting or dressing in colours like the prey or when a carcass is being carried over the shoulder of the hunter (Green, 2003).
A possible cause that may strengthen incorrect identification in turkey shooting, maybe a parallel to "Buck Fever", which is "a psychological state whereby the hunters desire to shoot their quarry is so strong that it overrides all rational thinking" (Carnachan, 2003).
Green (2003) found that the shooters were described as "experienced hunters" in 66% of cases where target identification was found to be an issue. These are real world situations that demonstrate findings by Bruner and Potter who concluded that people will make inferences about what they are seeing, and the earlier the inference is made, the stronger the perception will become (Allard, 2004). Experienced hunters believe that they are familiar with cues as to what is a turkey in the bush, so when they see a movement, they expect it and perceive it to be a turkey. They will continue to believe this until they receive disconfirming evidence, but often the victims strengthen the incorrect perception by acting like a turkey.
How can this be Avoided?
To increase their visibility to other hunters, it is law across most of Canada and the United States or else highly recommended that hunters wear bright "hunter orange" clothing so that they will not be mistaken for game (Olson, Childs & Chase, Year Unknown). Research has shown that wearing hunter orange will significantly reduce the number of mistaken for game accidents; from 1960 to 2001, of the 982 hunters shot, 741 were not wearing orange clothing compared to 242 people who were (Green, 2003). In a study performed by Olson, Childs & Chase (Year Unknown), it was found that subjects could more easily detect solid orange targets than camouflaged patterns of orange targets immediately following the removal of a cardboard blind, and was highly more visible than camouflaged orange patterns upon sustained viewing