Mass shootings are a particular problem in the United States, with one mass shooting occurring approximately every 12.5 days.
Recently a “contagion” effect has been suggested wherein the occurrence of one mass shooting increases the likelihood of another mass shooting occurring in the near future. Although contagion is a convenient metaphor used to describe the temporal spread of a behavior, it does not explain how the behavior spreads. Generalized imitation is proposed as a better model to explain how one person's behavior can influence another person to engage in similar behavior.
Here we provide an overview of generalized imitation and discuss how the way in which the media report a mass shooting can increase the likelihood of another shooting event. Also, we propose media reporting guidelines to minimize imitation and further decrease the likelihood of a mass shooting.